The Modern West

The Modern West is a rich collection of news and cultural stories from the Mountain West. Features, interviews, oral history, readings, and more offer a snapshot of Western life. Catch our monthly digest of stories on The Modern West podcast.  

Supported in part by a grant from the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund, a program of the Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources.

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Alexis Bonogofsky

For as long as 75-year-old Dick Baldes can remember, his tribe has tried to bring wild bison back to the Wind River Indian Reservation.

“Some of the old timers would talk about that and how important the bison was. I mean, that’s always been that way,” said Baldes.

Studio Session With Baroque Folk Band River Whyless

Nov 28, 2016
Anna Rader

River Whyless studio session, showcasing songs from their new album We All The Light. (recorded August 2016)

The Modern West #17: Western Coal On The Rocks

Nov 14, 2016
Stephanie Joyce

It’s been a tough year for the coal industry and the communities that depend on it. Can Wyoming adapt?

Stephanie Joyce

  

Coal country is celebrating Donald Trump’s election victory. Support for Trump was strong from Appalachia to Wyoming, and people have high hopes he can reverse coal’s recent downturn. But can he?

Like most of his co-workers, Jeremy Murphy listened to the election results on the radio in his pickup truck as he worked the overnight shift at the country’s largest coal mine, in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin.

“The two-way radios at work were really quiet,” he said. “Really, really quiet.”

Robert Kelly

As America contemplates its future with a new president, one man has been looking to the past for cues about our future. Robert Kelly, an archaeologist at the University of Wyoming, has written a new book called The Fifth Beginning.

In it, he argues humanity has encountered four transition points - or “beginnings” - in its history: the invention of technology, like stone tools, culture, agriculture, and the state. He sat down with Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard to discuss the period of transition humans are facing right now.

Edward S. Curtis

  

It’s been a long time since a large market book has tackled the history of the Indian Wars in the American West. But just last month, a new one hit bookstores, titled The Earth Is Weeping.

Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards chatted with author Peter Cozzens about why he felt it was time to get people thinking about this tragic era in American history.

The Modern West #16: Women Run The West, Part 1

Oct 17, 2016
Jennifer Pemberton

Women are running, but they aren’t winning the West. Western women got the right to vote almost 150 years ago, so why do they still lag in political power?

Gage Skidmore

  

Have you heard many western issues pop up in this election cycle? Neither has Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis. She said the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is actually missing a golden opportunity to attract independent voters in the west.

“I know that western issues are taking a backseat to national issues in this campaign, and I get that. But when we’re out in the west, when states like Colorado and Nevada are in play, there are issues that are unique to the west that a presidential candidate can capitalize on.”

Stephanie Joyce

 

The future is looking up for Wyoming’s wind industry.

There are few places in the country with more wind energy potential than Wyoming, but the state has seen almost no new wind turbines built in six years, even while wind has boomed in the rest of the country.

Depending on who you ask, the challenges have been political, technical or both. But now, the outlook is improving on all fronts.

arts.gov

  

The Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Jane Chu, was recently in Laramie. The visit was one of hundreds of trips Chu has made to communities around the country to see first-hand the role the arts are playing. Chairman Chu stopped by our studios to talk with Wyoming Public Radio’s Micah Schweizer.

Caroline Ballard

On a hot and sunny July day Julie McCallister readied herself for a day of campaigning at Saratoga Days, decked out in her “Elect Julie McCallister” polo.

McCallister was running for the Wyoming State House seat in House District 47.

In the art show at the Platte Valley Community Center, McCallister approached potential voters, chatting about everything from the art to why she is qualified to serve.

When Women Run, Women Win...Except When They Don't

Sep 23, 2016
Jennifer Pemberton

There are currently 10 women serving in the Utah House of Representatives and 6 in the state senate. Together they make up 15% of the 104 elected state legislators. This puts Utah in the bottom 10 states for percentage of women represented in the state legislature.

There are a lot of reasons for the disparity between men and women serving as elected state officials, but according to Katie Ziegler with the National Convention of State Legislatures, none of them has to do with electability:

Germany UN

  

Over the last three years, the German embassy has donated about $20,000 dollars toward educating University of Wyoming students about the fall of the Berlin wall and German history. Recently, the German Ambassador Peter Wittig visited the campus himself and, while he was here, Wyoming Public Radio's Melodie Edwards sat down with him to talk about what Wyoming can learn from Germany’s own coal downturn and the refugee crisis.

Todd Guenther

It’s late afternoon at the base of Dinwoody Glacier, and its creek is roaring with melted ice nearby. It's been a long day of digging for archeology students Crystal Reynolds, Morgan Robins and Nico Holt. 

“We love digging holes!” they say, laughing. “We love playing in the dirt.”

“It's like playing hide and seek with people you never met,” says Holt.

The Modern West #15: Out In The West

Sep 19, 2016
Aaron Schrank

How equal is the “Equality State?” This month’s show explores progress and problems for Wyoming’s LGBT citizens.

Melodie Edwards

The Journey In

It’s a hard 23 mile hike into the Wind River Range to one of the state’s largest glaciers. It’s called Dinwoody, and every step is a study in the powerful impact this glacier has had on these mountains in the last 1.5 million years.

Rebecca Huntington

In Grand Teton National Park, the White Grass Dude Ranch entertained visitors who came for mountain views and the chance to play cowboy. It closed in 1985 and soon the ranch's cabins and lodge started falling apart once people stopped using them.

That's how White Grass joined a backlog of some twenty-seven thousand historic properties nationwide that the National Park Service couldn’t afford to maintain. But things have changed.

Amy Sisk

Opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline continues to grow beyond its North Dakota roots, with solidarity protests Tuesday in dozens of cities across the country and the world.

Luke Brown

  

From the beginning, tribes from Wyoming's Wind River Indian Reservation have been participating in protests to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards interviewed Wind River Native Advocacy Center Director Jason Baldes two weeks ago about how his organization has sent several groups of people to participate in demonstrations.

Melodie Edwards

Overcrowding in homes on the Wind River Reservation is a real problem, as seen in the first story in our “Reservation Housing Shortage” series. In the early 2000s, the number of homes with more than six people living in them grew by 5% for Eastern Shoshone homes and by over 10% for Northern Arapaho. And the reason is, there just aren’t enough houses on the reservation.

Penny Preston

While the National Park Service celebrated its 100th year of existence recently, the beloved federal agency is trying to figure out how to make it through the next century, while protecting the national parks “unimpaired for future generations”. Some people are concerned new funding sources may put corporate logos in the parks.

144 years after Yellowstone National Park was established, people from around the world still gasp and cheer when Old Faithful erupts.

Maggie Mullen

Fighting wildfires increasingly relies on new technology, like drones and a web program that traces every lightning strike in real time. But in the Black Hills of Northeastern Wyoming, the most basic technology is still relied on—the human eye.

Warren Peak Lookout Tower is six miles Northwest of Sundance. It’s at 6,710 feet and it’s breezy. Karen Maloy is the lookout for Warren Peak. It’s her 11th season. She’s worked at towers across the country. Her first assignment was in college.

From Stan Burling’s house at the end of Main Street, it’s a minute walk to downtown Hazen in central North Dakota.

The street sports a thriving business community in this town of 2,400 with amenities like a drug store, an insurance company, a Chevy car dealer.

Power plants surround Hazen, along with the coal mines that feed them.

“They support the local economy,” Burling said.

About half the residents work in the industry, or in a related job.

“They buy their vehicles here, groceries, support the local retail businesses,” he said.

Michael Polito Source: Wikimedia Commons

  

The community of Gillette has seen tension recently with plans for a Quran burning and protests over Gillette’s first mosque. Writer and Pulitzer Prize winner Kathryn Schulz heard this and wondered how a Muslim community came to be in coal mining Wyoming.

Caroline Ballard

  

Nearly 150 years ago, Wyoming was the first place in the country to grant women the right to vote. Congress didn't pass the 19th amendment, guaranteeing all American women the right to vote, until 1919, and it was ratified by states in 1920. Wyoming was ahead of its time, giving women the vote in 1869, but there are conflicting accounts as to why the state was a trailblazer.

When The Equal Rights Amendment Came To Utah

Aug 26, 2016
Caroline Ballard

Women are only mentioned in the Constitution once: in the Nineteenth Amendment which grants women the right to vote. In 1923, suffragists proposed an amendment that would protect women’s rights across the board, but when the vote came to Utah, it was blocked by the Mormon Church.

Phillip Breker PhotoRX

After years of working as a chef in ethnic restaurants, Sioux tribal member Sean Sherman had an “ah-ha” moment. He suddenly wondered why there were no Native American restaurants, especially since pre-European contact foods are uniquely healthy. Now, Sherman is raising money through a Kickstarter Campaign to open one and he’s calling it The Sioux Chef.

The Modern West #14: Children Of The West

Aug 15, 2016
Melodie Edwards

  

The back-to-school episode. Young Wyomingites experience opportunities and challenges.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

  

Chris Goodwin's pitch opens with the same question every time: “Are you a Colorado voter?”

He has been wandering the streets of Boulder, asking that question over and over. Many people say no or ignore him  until he brings up the f-word: fracking.

Ortegon

  

This week the University of Wyoming hosted a summer institute for an organization that supports women of color in academia. One of the guest speakers was Sarah Ortegon, artist and former Miss Native American USA. Wyoming Public Radio’s Maggie Mullen spoke with Ortegon about her paintings currently exhibited at the UW Art Museum, partly inspired by her childhood on the Wind River Reservation. Her work will be exhibited until September 2.

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