[Back to Formatted Version]

Basques of Harney County, Oregon, Oral History Collection, 1976-2001

By Finding aid prepared by Elizabeth Nielsen.

Collection Overview

Title: Basques of Harney County, Oregon, Oral History Collection, 1976-2001

Predominant Dates: 1976-1979

ID: OH 004

Primary Creator: Jackson, Royal G.

Extent: 0.5 cubic feet. More info below.


This collection is arranged in two series: I. Audiotapes and II. Transcripts. Some of the interviews were previously assigned individual numbers; the OH04 item numbers were assigned by the Archives and the 979- and 986- numbers by the Horner Museum.

An alphabetical view of the oral history interviewees whose recordings are held in this collection is as follows.

Arguinchona, Santos (September 24, 1976) Barainca, Alsna (July 18, 1976) Baraibar, Maria (September 21, 1976) Baraibar, Nicholas (September 21, 1976) Diaz, Aval (March 23, 1979) Ebar, Josephine (September 21, 1976) Ereno, Carlos (September 25, 1976) Harrit, Jean (September 26, 1976) Iturriaga, Claudio (March 24, 1979) Iturriaga, Maria L. (March 24, 1979) Larraneta, Martina (September 3, 1976) Larraneta, Mike (September 9, 1976) Mallea, David (September 25, 1976) Osa, Marcelino (September 24, 1976) Stevens, Marguerite (September 23, 1976) Urizer, Cecilia (August 31, 1976) Vidando, Nicholas (September 7, 1976) Zabala, Joe (September 24, 1976)

Languages of Materials: English [eng]


The Basques of Harney County, Oregon, Oral History Collection consists of transcripts and audiotapes of 15 oral history interviews conducted in 1976 and 1979 as part of an inventory of historic sites in Harney County. Basque sheepherders immigrated to southeastern Oregon from the 1890s through the 1920s and worked as itinerant herders on the mountain ranges of Harney County until the 1930s.

Scope and Content Notes

The Basques in Harney County, Oregon, Oral History Collection consists of audiotapes and transcripts of oral history interviews conducted in 1976 by Royal G. Jackson and Jennifer A. Lee. The collection includes audiotapes and transcripts for 14 interviews and a transcript only of the interview with Alsna Barainca.

The oral histories address a variety of topics pertaining to the Basques in Harney County, including their work as sheepherders; Basque food and festivals; use of the Basque language; discrimination and prejudice against Basques; the Basque community in Burns, Oregon; other towns in the region, including Nampa, Idaho, and McDermitt on the Oregon-Nevada border; and Basque hotels and boarding houses including the Star Hotel and the Commercial Hotel in Burns.

The interviewees ranged in age from 30 to late 70s at the time of the interviews in 1976. Most of the interviewees were born in Spain and came to the United States in the 1910s and 1920s; five of the interviewees came to the United States between 1954 and 1970. Several interviewees were born in the United States.

Biographical / Historical Notes

Basque sheepherders immigrated from northern Spain and southwestern France to southeastern Oregon, Idaho, and Nevada from the 1890s until the early 1920s. They worked as itinerant herders on the mountain ranges of Harney County until the 1930s and often spent the winters in Basque boarding houses or hotels, such as the Star Hotel in Burns. The Taylor Grazing Act, drought, and the depression brought an end to the sheep industry in Harney County.

The Basques of Harney County, Oregon, Oral History Project was part of an inventory of historic sites in Harney County conducted by Royal G. Jackson and Jennifer A. Lee in 1976 and was funded by the OSU Research Council and the Harney County Oral History Program. Jackson was an Associate Professor in the Department of Resource Recreation Management at Oregon State University; Lee was a student in that department fulfilling an internship requirement.

Administrative Information

More Extent Information: 28 audiotapes and 3 photographs; 2 boxes

Statement on Access: Collection is open for research.

Related Materials: This collection is a component of the Oregon Multicultural Archives, which documents the lives and activities of African American, Asian American, Latino and Native American communities of Oregon. Other materials pertaining to Harney County are available in the Extension Service Records (RG 111), Agricultural Experiment Station Records (RG 025), and the Edwin Russel Jackman Papers (MSS Jackman).

Preferred Citation: Basques of Harney County, Oregon, Oral History Collection (OH 004), Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.

Processing Information: The contents of this collection originally resided in the Horner Museum Oral History Collection (OH 10). Materials were removed and described as separate collection in 2008. Further additions and description were completed in 2014.


Jackson, Royal G.
Harney County Oral History Program (Or.)
Lee, Jennifer A.
Purkey, Amanda B.

People, Places, and Topics

Basque Americans--Oregon--Harney County--Interviews.
Basque language--Oregon--Harney County.
Burns (Or.)
Cookery, Basque.
Folk dancing, Basque--Oregon--Harney County.
Harney County Oral History Program (Or.)
Jackson, Royal G.
Natural Resources
Oregon Multicultural Archives
Oregon State University. Research Council
Sheepherding--Oregon--Harney County.

Forms of Material

Oral histories (literary works)

Box and Folder Listing

Series 1: Transcripts, 1977-2001
Nine of the interviews were transcribed soon after they were recorded, probably in 1977, and published in a 1978 volume. Logs and transcripts of six interviews were made in 2001 by Amanda Purkey.
Box-Folder 1.1: Arguinchona, Santos, 1977
Item OH04:01; 986-1-45
Box-Folder 1.2: Ereno, Carlos, 1977
Item OH04:02; 986-1-46
Box-Folder 1.3: Harrit, Jean, 1977
Item OH04:03; 986-1-47
Box-Folder 1.4: Larraneta, Martina, 1977
Item OH04:04; 986-1-48
Box-Folder 1.5: Larraneta, Mike, 1977
Item OH04:05; 986-1-49
Box-Folder 1.6: Mallea, David, 1977
Item OH04:06; 986-1-50
Box-Folder 1.7: Stevens, Marguerite, 1977
Item OH04:07; 986-1-51
Box-Folder 1.8: Urizer, Cecilia, 1977
Item OH04:08; 986-1-52
Box-Folder 1.9: Barainca, Alsna, 1977
Item OH04:09; 986-1-53. Alsna Barainca came to Oregon from Spain in 1961. This interview provides information about Basque food and festivals and Spanish politics.
Box-Folder 1.10: Diaz, Aval, 1979
Item 979-1-12. File includes a photograph of Diaz.
Box-Folder 1.11: Iturriaga, Maria L., 1979
Item 979-1-13. File includes a photograph of Maria Iturriaga.
Box-Folder 1.12: Iturriaga, Claudio, 1979
Item 979-1-14. File includes a photograph of Claudio Iturriaga.
Box-Folder 1.13: Baraibar, Maria, 2001
Box-Folder 1.14: Baraibar, Nicholas, 2001
Box-Folder 1.15: Ebar, Josephine, 2001
Box-Folder 1.16: Osa, Marcelino, 2001
Box-Folder 1.17: Vidando, Nicholas, 2001
Box-Folder 1.18: Zabala, Joe, 2001
Box-Folder 1.19: Transcripts of confidential information deleted by interviewer from selected interviews, 2001
Box-Folder 1.20: The Basques of Harney County, Oregon: an oral history, by Royal G. Jackson and Jennifer A. Lee, 1978
Series 2: Audiotapes, 1976-1979
The audiotapes include an original field recording of the interview and a duplicate use copy. Use copies of the unnumbered interviews were made in 2001.
Box-Item 2.1: Arguinchona, Santos, September 24, 1976
Item OH04:01; 986-1-45. Arguinchona was born in 1900 in Spain and came to Winnemucca, Nevada in 1918. This interview provides information about sheepherding and camptending, Basque festivals, the Star Hotel in Burns, Basques in Burns, Argentina, and McDermitt.
Box-Item 2.2: Ereno, Carlos, September 25, 1976
Item OH04:02; 986-1-46. Ereno was born in Nampa, Idaho, in 1922; his parents came to Idaho directly from Spain in the 1905 (father) and 1909 (mother). This interview provides information about Nampa, Idaho; Spain; and Spanish politics.
Box-Item 2.3: Harrit, Jean, September 26, 1976
Item OH04:03; 986-1-47. Harrit was born in France in 1914 and came to Oregon in 1939 to join his brother who was a sheepherder. This interview provides information about Basques in Burns, sheepherding, the Hines Lumber Mill, and the Crane Land Sheep Company.
Box-Item 2.4: Larraneta, Martina, September 3, 1976
Item OH04:04; 986-1-48. Martina Larraneta was born in 1901 in Spain and came to San Francisco in 1916. In 1920 she married a sheepherder and moved to Oregon. This interview provides information about Basques in Burns, Basque social activities, the Commercial Hotel in Burns, and San Francisco.
Box-Item 2.5: Larraneta, Mike, September 9, 1976
Item OH04:05; 986-1-49. Mike Larraneta came to Winnemucca, Nevada, from Spain in 1920, at the age of 22 years. This interview provides information about working as a carpenter; Winnemucca, Nevada; and Spain.
Box-Item 2.6: Mallea, David, September 25, 1976
Item OH04:06; 986-1-50. David Mallea was born in Jordan Valley, Oregon, in 1922. His parents came to Idaho from Spain in 1902 (father) and 1905 (mother). His father worked in the mines for several years and then as a sheepherder. This interview provides information about Jordan Valley, Spain, and Basques in Burns.
Box-Item 2.7: Stevens, Marguerite, September 23, 1976
Item OH04:07; 986-1-51. Marguerite Stevens' parents came to Nevada from Spain in the early 1900s; her father was a sheepherder. This interview provides information about Basque food and social events.
Box-Item 2.8: Urizer, Cecilia, August 31, 1976
Item OH04:08; 986-1-52. Urizer was born in Spain in 1898 and immigrated to McDermitt, on the Oregon-Nevada border, in 1916. This interview provides information about McDermitt, Andrews, the Star Hotel, Basques in Burns, and Spain.
Box-Item 2.9: Baraibar, Maria, September 21, 1976
Maria Baraibar came to the United States from Spain in 1970. This interview describes her arrival in the United States from Spain; learning English; Basque families and friends and Burns; and children learning culture and language.
Box-Item 2.10: Baraibar, Nicholas, September 21, 1976
Nicholas Baraibar came to the United States from Spain in 1955, at the age of 16, to be a sheepherder. This interview includes information about sheepherding, Basque hotels in Burns, Basque friends and family, and Basque festivals and social events.
Box-Item 2.11: Ebar, Josephine, September 21, 1976
Ebar came to the United States in 1921 from Spain. This interview provides information on sheepherding; the Central Hotel in Burns and other Basque hotels; traditional Basque dances; and Basque food and cooking.
Box-Item 2.12: Osa, Marcelino, September 24, 1976
Marcelina Osa was born in Spain in 1921 and came to Oregon with his family when he was five years old. This interview describes growing up in Burns as a Basque; speaking Basque, Spanish, and English as a child; sheepherding; traditional Basque dances and festivals; Basque prejudice in Burns; Basque hotels and boarding houses; Native Americans; and the importance of the preservation of Basque culture and language.
Box-Item 2.13: Vidando, Nicholas, September 7, 1976
Vidando came to the United States in 1954 at the age of 21. This interview provides information about sheepherding; Basque traditions, dances, and games; and misunderstandings among Basques in Burns.
Box-Item 2.14: Zabala, Joe, September 24, 1976
Zabala came to the United States in 1957 when he was 10 years old. This interview provides information about his family's arrival in Burns and acquisition of the Star Hotel; the Star Hotel's transformation into a private residence; the decline of sheepherding; discrimination in Burns toward Basques; Basque festivals and traditional dances; and the Basque community in Burns.
Box-Item 2.15-2.17: Diaz, Aval, March 23, 1979
Items 979-1-12a-c. Born in 1921. Discusses his Basque ancestry, family, childhood with a sheepherder father in Idaho, Basque traditions, customs, and politics. Describes his memories of the Depression, experiences on the Alvord Ranch, the Folly Farm, effects of the Taylor Grazing Act, his army experiences, his wife and family. Discusses how the Basque community has changed in the Burns area over the years, Basque clubs and festivals and their future. Other topics include the process of sheep shearing, the story of whorehouse meadows, and the passage of Basque culture onto his children.
Box-Item 2.18-2.19: Iturriaga, Maria L., March 24, 1979
Items 979-1-13a-b. Born in 1947. Discusses her Basque and Spanish ancestors, the reasons for her father's move to the U.S. in 1954, and how he left the rest of the family behind for seven years. Other topics include their reunion, her impressions of life in Spain contrasted with life in Burns, adjustments she and her family had to make, Basque holidays and traditions, her education, how she met her husband, visits back to Spain, and the future of Basque identity in Oregon.
Box-Item 2.20-2.21: Iturriaga, Claudio, March 24, 1979
Items 979-1-14a-b. Born ca. 1941. Childhood in Spain. Discusses emigration of Basques to United States, sheepherding, and camp-tending in Oregon in the 1960s. Questions future of Basque culture in Oregon.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.