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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The Modern West 19: Women Run The West, Part 2

Jan 18, 2017
Caroline Ballard

In the final part of this series, we ask why Western women still lag in political power even though they got the right to vote almost 150 years ago?

Over the past few months, we’ve been looking at the housing crisis on the Wind River Indian Reservation. The shortage of homes there—and the lack of funding to build more--has led to overcrowding and homelessness. Many Native Americans are often forced to find rentals in border communities off the reservation. Even there they still struggle to find places to live because of racial discrimination.

  

On Monday, January 16 at 9 p.m., Wyoming PBS will air a new documentary set in Wyoming called What Was Ours, directed by Mat Hames. It’s about three Native Americans on the Wind River Indian Reservation and their relationship to artifacts and ceremonial objects and how hard it can be to keep such things within the tribe. Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards spoke with two people who appear in the film, Northern Arapaho members Jordan Dresser and former Powwow Princess Mikala Sunrhodes.

Buffalo Bill Center of the West

William F. Cody, also known as Buffalo Bill, died in Denver, Colorado on January 10, 1917.  One hundred years later, his name adorns a 300,000 square foot museum complex in Cody, Wyoming: The Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

That complex holds a Buffalo Bill Museum, but it also houses a research library and four other Museums, featuring Western Art, Plains Indians, guns, and the wildlife and wild places of the Yellowstone area. What else did the world famous showman leave behind?

Wyoming has become a flash point in the debate over whether hundreds of millions of acres of federal public lands should be turned over to state hands.

From Buzz Hettick's place on the edge of the windswept college town of Laramie, it's a short drive into the heart of these remote lands, vast tracts run by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

On a recent, blustery morning, Hettick was scouting out an elk hunt in the Laramie range, a patchwork of private and public BLM land north of his home.

"A lot of wildlife uses public lands," he says.

The Modern West 18: A Look Back And A Look Ahead

Dec 20, 2016
whytoread.com

It’s a new literary edition, exploring Wyoming’s past, present, and future through conversations with authors. 

Grizzly bear on Swan Lake Flats, Yellowstone National Park; Jim Peaco

Last week, the Northern Arapaho tribe issued a statement expressing frustration about being left out of a meeting on removing the grizzly bear from the Endangered Species List. The disagreement has left some people wondering if grizzly delisting could be the Dakota Access Pipeline of Wyoming in which local tribes assert themselves as sovereign nations.

 

Yufna Soldier Wolf is the director of the Northern Arapaho Tribal Historic Preservation Office, which might make you wonder, what's so historic about grizzly bears? 

Aaron Schrank

 

Emotions are running high following the 2016 presidential election. Educators in Jackson are helping their large number of Mexican students cope with emotions they may be encountering at home.

“We have to determine what's important. Was my wig, really important?” asks teacher Thomas Ralston.

“No!” respond his third-grade class.

“So do I think if I used my earth and space book, every single thing in my earth and space book should go in my report?” he asks.

“No!” respond the students.

Melodie Edwards

There’s a housing crisis going on at the Wind River Indian Reservation in central Wyoming. For its fast growing population of 15,000 residents, there aren’t nearly enough homes to go around, and very little funding to build more. The problem has led to high rates of homelessness in Fremont County. But on rural reservations like Wind River, homelessness doesn’t look much like it does in big cities.

Irina Zhorov / The Pulse

On a beef ranch called Ledenevo, in the Bryansk region of Russia, about 300 miles southwest of Moscow, everything is brand new. The farm opened just a year ago and the tractors, the administrative buildings, the gravel work roads, the fencing, somehow even the cows themselves, sparkled. On a sunny day this fall, a rodeo overshadowed the farm’s regular operations.

Wyoming Women’s Caucus

  

For the last 22 years, women have held Wyoming's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Retiring Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) is being replaced by Liz Cheney. Lummis herself replaced Barbara Cubin, who was elected to the seat in 1994. Cubin was the first woman to ever hold the seat, breaking down barriers that had been in place for generations. 

Celia Talbot Tobin / Inside Energy

  

Protesters have been camped out on federal land at the Dakota Access construction site in North Dakota for months, and now winter has arrived, dumping almost two feet of snow on the encampment the last week of November. The winter storm hit just before news that president-elect Donald Trump indicated he supports completion of the pipeline.

Wyoming State Archives

In recent years, more and more bills have been introduced in Wyoming’s legislature that would transfer the management of federal public lands into the state control. In fact, legislators will discuss a constitutional amendment to allow state management of public lands in Cheyenne on December 14.

Maggie Mullen

 

It’s an unseasonably warm November day in Wyoming, and a small group of Bureau of Land Management employees is out in the Checkerboard, just east of Rock Springs. Like a lot of Wyoming, it’s arid with wide open spaces. They’re looking for wild horses. Leading the way is Jay D’Ewart, who works with wild horses for the Rock Springs field office.

“Besides the paperwork,” says D’Ewart. “I’m the eyes and ears for the wild horses out here on the range.”

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.

Neltje

The celebrated Wyoming artist Neltje has led a storied life. Her new memoir, North of Crazy, chronicles her journey from high society to the high plains.

As the daughter of famed publisher Nelson Doubleday, Neltje had a privileged upbringing, growing up in her family’s homes in New York, Long Island, and South Carolina.

But as an adult, she left society life and moved to her adopted home near Sheridan, where she still lives. Neltje spoke with Wyoming Public Radio’s Micah Schweizer.

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.

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