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Summary

A moment in time

The Last Link shows the shepherds and their descendants as a proud and passionate people, whose spiritual and physical vitality is shaped by their connection to the mountains, regardless of whether they are the French Pyrénées or Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains. Tempered by extremes of weather and demands of self-reliance, they remain linked to an Old World Culture that offers a glimpse into the past where one can feel time, marked by ever-changing patterns of seasonal cycles. Interviews with immigrants and their descendants in Wyoming and California graphically illustrate the role of community in sustaining a transplanted identity within a larger Western American culture.

Traveling with Pete Camino, The Last Link examines the decline of this agricultural lifestyle as it becomes less profitable in a world of high technology and more mechanized practices. A look at both the Old and New Worlds reveals this as a threat to the maintenance of a collective knowledge of values and life-lessons acquired through an intimate connection with the land. It asks and answers these questions:

  • What is left of the Old World culture with the decline of sheep herding- a vibrant essence of a people still imbued with a deep spirit of the peaks or a dying echo of a receding past?

  • How important is a strong connection to the natural world to passing on these qualities to future generations?

  • Can long-standing cultural ties remain in the face of far-reaching economic, technological and social changes?

  • Can we maintain our cultural identity when forced out of our lifestyle?

With these questions in mind, The Last Link returns to Wyoming with Pete and makes a journey into the lives of local high-school youths. Investigating the tension of changing priorities and goals, it is here that The Last Link begins to look for which factors have enabled or prevented this new generation from maintaining its cultural identity against the introduction of a new lifestyle.

The Last Link considers the human condition on the cusp of change and at the edge of a truly technological era, one which threatens agricultural lifestyles across the globe now more than ever.

Saying “Goodbye”…

The thunder of hooves heralds the end of a legacy in a corner of Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains. With quiet resignation, Johnny Camino, the son of Basque immigrants, leads his flock of sheep for the last time. Tomorrow they will be sold and his exit from the world of agriculture will be complete. At 83, his cousin Pete looks on, contemplating his position as one of the last Basque sheep ranchers in the area, a man with one last dream: to see the land of his parents before his death. At this moment, he has no idea that within six months he will embark on the trip of his life.

With Narration by Willie Nelson, The Last Link captures the rich and dramatic story of the Basque and Béarnais shepherding cultures. For over 5000 years, shepherding has been a way of life in the French Pyrénées. Basque emigrants brought this culture to the American West in the early 20th Century. Less than a hundred years later, it is in danger of being absorbed into mainstream culture, both in France and the United States.


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