Joe was born in Nampa, Idaho in 1915 to Domingo and Maria Eiguren, but when barely a year old, his family moved back to the Basque Country where he stayed until 1934, when he decided to emigrate back to the United States. After a brief stay in Boise, he went to Jordan Valley to work for a sheep company. A powerful thirst for knowledge made the isolation of working with the sheep difficult for Joe. Later he served in the US Army during World War II, and when he returned he worked for the Department of Employment helping migrant workers. He was largely self-taught about Basque studies, and his efforts to promote the language and culture stemmed from the request of others to learn more.