Plaques With Herders’ Names Stolen from Sheepherder Monument

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Bronze plaques engraved with the names of hundreds of sheepherders who immigrated to the United States have been stolen from the National Monument to the Basque Sheepherder in Reno.

Detectives have launched a grand larceny investigation into the theft of the five plaques, which occurred sometime between Jan. 12 and Jan 17., according to the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office.

“Right now, we don’t have any leads,” Deputy Armando Avina told Euskal Kazeta.

Plaques with herders' names were stolen from this wall at the National Sheepherder Monument. Photo: My 4 News.

Plaques with herders' names were stolen from this wall at the National Sheepherder Monument. Photo: My 4 News.

The theft was reported Jan. 19 by a citizen who filed an online crime report with the Sheriff’s Office. Investigators have not determined whether the pieces were stolen to be recycled for money or fenced to a collector, Avina said. He added that detectives were checking local recycling facilities to see whether the plaques had turned up there.

Related Euskal Kazeta Report:
Sheepherder Monument in Disarray

The theft represents a significant loss for the herders whose names were memorialized and their descendants. Family members donated money to have their fathers or grandfathers’ names inscribed on the bronze tablets on a wall next to a 22-foot statue on a scrubby hill in Rancho San Rafael Park. The contributions, which came in small checks from across the U.S., helped fund a sizable portion of the $350,000 needed for the project, which has been a source of great pride for the international Basque community.

Letters have fallen off the sign.

The wall with bronze plaques listing herders' names in August 2009. Photo: Euskal Kazeta.

“We’re in shock. We can’t believe what happened, ” said University of Nevada Reno Professor Carmelo Urza, a member of the project’s original organizing committee and author of “Solitude,” a book about the monument.

Given their importance, the tablets have to be replaced, Urza said. Community members are looking at different options to pursue, including determining what responsibility Washoe County may have in helping restore the plaques. The park is operated by the County Regional Parks and Open Space department.

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.

The monument’s statue is a five-ton abstract work of art — a shepherd carrying a lamb over his shoulders under a full moon. It is titled “Bakardade,” or Solitude. The site is a lasting memorial to the pioneering, industrial spirit of thousands of Basque sheepherders who roamed the mountain meadows and harsh desert plains of the American West.

Basque community leader José Ramón Cengotitabengoa was the driving force behind the Basque Sheepherder Monument

Basque community leader José Ramón Cengotitabengoa was the driving force behind the Basque Sheepherder Monument

The project was a significant endeavor for the international Basque community, whose members in Europe also donated funds, which paid for about half of the project. The effort was the first time that such a monumental, community-wide project had been undertaken. The project was spearheaded by the Society of Basque Studies in America.

Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office at (775) 832-WCSO.

Graffiti is scratched in and spraypainted on the statue.

Photographs taken in August 2009 show graffiti that had been scratched in and spray-painted on the statue. Photo: Euskal Kazeta.

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