Within the States


Tim Brown said he lives in "Gardnerville-Minden, Nevada, small twin ranching towns about 20 minutes by car south of Carson City (Twins because when they were founded cattle ranchers would not live in the same town with sheepherders so they each built one!)" I commented: "This suggests antagonism between the ranchers who were Anglo and the shepherds (sheepherders?) who were Basque". Tim clarifies: "Both the cattlemen and the owners of the sheep ranches were Anglos. Only the sheepherders who worked for the sheep ranchers originally were Basque. But they did prosper so that for example a first generation Nevada son of a Basque sheepherder could become Senator Paul Laxalt, Ronald Reagan's best friend". RH: More important than Laxalt is Stanford's highly esteemed provost John W. Etchemendy, who is also a Professor of Philosophy. We talk a lot about minorities like the Jews, but we never hear about the Basques. In view of the Basque problem in Spain, we wonder if there is a Basque lobby. Information and clarification would be appreciated. What is the difference between a sheepherder and a shepherd?

We discussed the Basques of Nevada and the possible existence of a Basque lobby. Carlos Lópèz of Chile comments: "I don't know about the lobby, but last week as I was suffering under the hands of my new dentist,-- the old one retired,-- he suddenly said: " I didn't know you were Basque." When I asked him how did he know, he told me I had no wisdom teeth. So I guess there are other identification marks than a long nose and a pointing chin. Carlos López (Urrutia-Mendiburu)" RH: Is the new dentist Basque, or is this peculiarity known to dentists? Carlos is Basque on his mother's side. I am incapable of making an informed comment.

Tim Brown answers questions about the Basques of Nevada: "I don't know of a Basque lobby per se, although I assume there is one, since there are lobbies for almost every group. There is a center for Basque studies at the University of Nevada Reno, where they also teach Basque as a language. I don't know of any difference between sheepherder and shepherd, unless perhaps shepherds or their families own the sheep while sheepherders work for someone else. As to whether a senior US Senator or a university provost ranks higher, I will leave that determination to those far wiser than I". RH: It sounds as though the Nevada Basques are not very excited about the politics of the Basque country of Spain. According to Webster, a sheepherder takes care of a large flock of sheep. But a bishop with a large congregation would still be a shepherd, however big his flock.

Miles Seeley says: "When I was cowboying in eastern Oregon as a young man, I worked with several Basque cowboys. They disdained the usual sheepherder life of many Basque immigrants. They were, every one, the toughest men I have ever known, but they had a great sense of humor and were exceptionally loyal to friends and family. I liked them very much". RH: Obviously cowboys lead a tougher life than shepherds, and therefore consider the shepherds sissy.


Randy Black forwards this: "The Five Civilized Tribes was a loose confederation, formed in 1859, of North American Indians in what was then Indian Territory (in present-day Oklahoma). The group comprised the Iroquoian-speaking Cherokee and the Muskogean-speaking Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole. They were described as "civilized" because of their early adoption of many of the white man's ways. Under the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Five Tribes were deported from their traditional homelands east of the Mississippi and forced to settle in Indian Territory. Each organized an autonomous state modeled after the U.S. federal government, established courts and a formalized code of laws, constructed schools and Christian churches, and developed a writing system patterned on the one earlier devised by the Cherokee.

Members of the Five Tribes absorbed many cultural features of their white neighbors, including plow agriculture and animal husban! dry, European-style houses and dress, and even the ownership of black slaves. Some tribesmen joined the Confederate forces during the Civil War".

RH: This is very important. In Latin American countries like Guatemala there are Westernized Indians, called ladinos because they are "Latinized". There relations with the non-Westernized Indians are reported to be bad. To my knowledge, no non-Westernized Indians survive in the US, although Indians may dress up in their tribal costumes for special events, like the Stanford annual pow wow. I assume these annual events are held at Stanford because the Indian was the sports symbol of the university.. The Indian was dropped some years ago because he was considered politically incorrect, but the `pow wow flourishes.

I asked Dick Hancock, who lives in Oklahoma, about the Chickasaws. He replies: "As it happens, I just read an interesting article in the current issue of The Chronicles of Oklahoma published by the Oklahoma Historical Society. The article, "Navigation on the Upper Red River" by Keith Tolman, said that there were 6,000 Chickasaws and 13,000 Choctaws in the Indian Territory around Ft. Towson in the 1830's. These Indians came from the south by steamboat and brought their slaves and knowledge of cotton growing with them; they were soon exporting 200,000 bales of cotton annually. A Chickasaw-Choctaw planter named Robert M. Jones came to own 10,000 acres worked by 500 slaves. He was involved in all kinds of businesses, including the ownership of steamboats. Many of the current towns and counties are named after these early Chickasaw and Choctaw families. Talk about making lemonade out of lemons, these people did it. There were scores of steam boats plying the Red River in those years. The civil war wiped out this prosperity, and unfortunately the five civilized tribes--Chickasaw, Choctaw,Creek, Seminole and Cherokee--fought for the Southern cause and were severely punished for this mistake by the victorious Yankees.
This area of the state is quite prosperous now because of the booming tree plantations there. Weyerhauser has the largest lumber mill east of the Rocky Mountains in Wright City, OK. I have toured it and it is very impressive. This is a beautiful part of Oklahoma; it has a rainfall of sixty inches annually and is as green as Ireland".

RH: The Red River forms the southern boundary of Oklahoma. What Dick reports is new and interesting to me, especially that the Indians owned slaves.

RH: "The name "Oklahoma" derives from Choctaw words meaning "people" (okla) and "red" (humma)". John Heelan asks "Choctaw for "red" = "humma"; Arabic for the same word -"hamra". Does any WAISer linguistic expert know if the two are connected in some way?" RH: All kinds of linguistic connections are suggested, and we await word from some specialist. My guess is that it is just a coincidence.

Ronald Hilton - 01.25.04