The first Basques came to Johnson County to work as sheepherders. Once the original immigrants had established themselves they brought over relatives and friends from the Basque Country to work with them. Slowly, the Basques acquired herds of their own and eventually ranches until they came to dominate the sheep industry of the area.
Over time language shift, from Basque to English, has forced the group to discard a language-based identity. In its place has developed an ethnicity dependent on elements from European-Basque culture and the sheep industry.
The current Basque character of the Johnson County area is less a
product of an ethnic revival than a process of re-imagination of what it
means to be Basque in Wyoming. In this view ethnicity is not primordial
(Shils 1957), instrumental (Glazer and Moynihan 1970) nor the produce of
conscious attempts at revitalization (Hansen 19652). Instead ethnicity
appears to have a fluid, dynamic quality that allows the perception of
the in-group and of out-groups, as well as those of the individual
members of both, to be incorporated into the production of a personal and
a collective identity.
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