The Modern West seeks out the people who still believe that the West is the native home of hope. We’re digging deep, searching out diverse perspectives that recognize not only the origin stories of this place but also its darkest days.

A black and white image of an older man with a cowboy hat on a horse

The Great Individualist

A Stetson hat, cowboy boots, cattle drives, sprawling acres of land—these are a few things that come to mind when most people envision the American West. While these Western motifs may feel very familiar, the lore of the cowboy—and its roots in the Mexican vaquero—are surprisingly misunderstood. 

Enter the fifth season. The Great Individualist focuses on how the ranching lifestyle is changing and what that means for the region’s inhabitants and environment.  

With episodes ranging from the vaquero and pioneer history of the cowboy to regenerative ranching and the race for environmentally sound solutions, the season surveys the ever-changing identity of the American West. 

With a star filled night sky above him, a cowboy holds a lantern, staring into a cave.

Cowboy Up

Everyone likes to say that there’s no better place to grow up than in the Rocky Mountains. Building snow forts, riding your bike everywhere, learning how to find your way out of the woods when you’re lost. But for kids having a hard time, no one’s handing them a map and compass. In Wyoming, kids are incarcerated and dying of suicide at higher rates than anywhere else. Longtime education reporter Tennessee Watson started to wonder if all this had to do with the “cowboy up” attitude we take toward child-rearing in the American West. A three-part series.

An illustration of green COVID-19 cells, with Native American people wearing masks, traditional outfits, and history inside them

Shall Furnish Medicine

Reservations have been some of the hardest-hit communities in the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, for Native Americans, this all feels awfully familiar…the arrival of a terrible illness that kills elders while the federal government does little to stop it. But this time, tribes know what to do. In this three-part series, Shall Furnish Medicine, we trace that devastating history from its beginning.

An illustration of green COVID-19 cells, with Native American people wearing masks, traditional outfits, and history inside them

Ghost Town(ing)

They say those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. So what can Old West ghost towns teach us about today’s shrinking rural towns? In this twelve-part series, Ghost Town(ing), we take you to the windswept prairie where towns once stood and to new ghost towns in the making. We explore rural decline and resilience, and ask, why does it matter if America’s small towns disappear?