New Plaques Slated for Basque Sheepherder Monument

New plaques listing the names of hundreds of Basque immigrants are being manufactured to replace those stolen more than a year ago from the National Monument to the Basque Sheepherder. The plaques are expected to be completed in the coming weeks.

The $30,000 or so needed to replace the five stolen plaques was covered by the insurance carrier for the Washoe County Regional Parks system, which oversees San Rafael Park in Reno where the monument is located.

Letters have fallen off the sign.
These bronze plaques, as they appeared in 2009, were stolen. No arrests were made. Photo: Euskal Kazeta.

The money also paid for replacing bronze letters that were stolen from the wall and a plaque that featured a map of the United States that was also stolen, said Andy Mink, a district manager for the park agency.

The names of Basque herders on the plaques have been checked for misspellings, MInk said, adding that the tablets were expected to be done in the near future.

“It should be soon,” Mink told Euskal Kazeta. “I’m excited to see the finished product.”

The original plaques were bronze and were stolen in January 2011 by vandals who likely sold them to recyclers, the Reno Police Department has said. No arrests were made in the case.

Related Euskal Kazeta reports:
Vandals Steal Sheepherder Monument Plaques
Sheepherder Monument in Disrepair on 20th Anniversary

The new plaques and letters will be made from aluminum, which is less expensive than bronze. The lower cost allowed officials to replace all the lettering on the wall with the same material. The insurance policy only covered the letters that were stolen, Mink said, but officials didn’t want some letters bronze and others aluminum.

An additional plaque is being planned for Basque herders whose names are being added to those on the original tablets. A number of people have forwarded names of family members to University of Nevada Reno Professor Carmelo Urza, who is overseeing the effort.

José Ramón Cengotitabengoa was the driving force behind the Basque Sheepherder Monument
The Basque Sheepherder Monument has been the target of vandals in recent years. Photo: Euskal Kazeta.

A name can be included for a $300 donation, which is the same amount paid originally by family members, said Urza, who was a member of the organizing committee that oversaw the creation of the monument more than 20 years ago.

The donations, Urza said, will be used to cover the costs of manufacturing the plaque and erecting it at the site. Anyone who is interested in adding a family member to the new plaque can contact Urza via email at

The theft of the five plaques was a significant loss for the Basque community. Hundreds of people donated money to have the names of family members memorialized on the bronze tablets, which stood next to the towering statue called “Bakardade,” or Solitude, which was dedicated on Aug. 27,1989 in a ceremony at the park attended by more than 1,000 people.

The abstract work, designed by acclaimed Basque artist Nestor Basterretxea, features a shepherd carrying a lamb over his shoulders under a full moon. About half of the $350,000 for the project came in checks from across the U.S. from Basque Americans who requested their fathers and grandfathers’ names be inscribed.

In August 2009, as the monument neared its 20th anniversary, Euskal Kazeta reported that vandals had scarred the statue with graffiti and that interactive plaques designed to guide visitors had been stolen. The report noted that the monument’s isolated location made it a relatively easy target for crime and vandalism.