A Journey through the Eight-Part Documentary Series
Episode One (To 1806)
The West begins as the whole world to the people who live there. It becomes
a New World when Europeans arrive, a world shaken by incompatible visions.
And almost three centuries later, when Lewis and Clark venture west to
find a Northwest Passage, this world becomes the testing-ground for a
young nation's continent-spanning dream.
Episode Two (1806 to 1848)
Empire Upon the Trails
Americans head west along many pathways -- following the fur trade into
the mountains, fighting for self-determination in Texas, seeking religious
freedom in Utah or a better life along the Oregon Trail. But whatever
direction they travel, they move closer with every step to a “Manifest
Destiny” that will make the West their own.
Episode Three (1848 to 1856)
Speck of the Future
The Gold Rush brings the whole world to the West, as 49ers from Asia,
South America and the eastern states scramble for “a share of the rocks,”
littering the hills with mining towns and creating the West’s first metropolis.
But in the push to strike it rich, many are violently pushed aside.
Episode Four (1856 to 1868)
Death Runs Riot
Civil war comes early to the West. In “Bleeding Kansas,” abolitionists
battle for free soil. In Utah, federal troops march against Mormon polygamy.
And along the Rio Grande, oppressed Mexican Americans rebel. The war between
North and South unleashes brute savagery in the West, and leaves behind
an army prepared for total war against the native peoples of the plains.
Episode Five (1868 to 1874)
The Grandest Enterprise Under God
A triumph of the human spirit, the transcontinental railroad opens a new
era in the West, carrying homesteaders onto the prairies, bringing cowboys
up the cattle trail from Texas, helping give women the vote in Utah and
sending buffalo hunters onto the plains, where they drive a symbol of
the West -- and a way of life -- to the brink of extinction.
Episode Six (1874 to 1877)
Fight No More Forever
The federal government tightens its grip on the West, but three bold spirits
remain defiant -- Sitting Bull, who prophesies his people's greatest victory
but cannot prevent their ultimate defeat; Brigham Young, who must sacrifice
a spiritual son to save his church; and Chief Joseph, who triumphs in
defeat as an indomitable voice of conscience for the West.
Episode Seven (1877 to 1887)
The Geography of Hope
Newcomers arrive by the millions, bringing a new spirit of conformity
to the West. Indian children are taught to forsake their heritage, Mormons
are told to abandon a tenet of their faith, and new laws deny Chinese
and Mexican Americans a place in society. Yet the legend of the “Wild
West” lives on, thanks to the greatest showman of the age.
Eight (1887 to 1914)
One Sky Above Us
As settlers race to claim tribal lands, Native Americans take up the Ghost
Dance, trusting in its power to restore a lost way of life until their
hopes are crushed at Wounded Knee. The new century marks a new era in
the West, an age of aqueducts and smelters. But the West remains what
it has always been, a world waiting for a dream.