“The West stretches from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean, from the northern plains to the Rio Grande — more than two million square miles of the most extraordinary landscape on earth. Its terrain has always beckoned and repelled. It is a land of almost impenetrable mountain barriers–the Rockies and the Wasatch, the Bitterroots and the Big Horns, the Sierra de Nevada and Sangre de Cristo, the Confusions, the Crazies, and the Black Hills.
“It is a land of rivers–the Colorado and Columbia and Missouri–the Sweetwater and the Platte, Sand Creek and the Greasy Grass, the River that Scolds All Others, and the River of No Return.
It is a dream. It is what people who have come here from the beginning of time have dreamed. It’s a dream landscape. To the Native American, it’s full of sacred realities, powerful things. It’s a landscape that has to be seen to be believed. And as I say on occasion, it may have to be believed in order to be seen.”– N. Scott Momaday
“The West is a land of endless seas of grass, unimaginable distances, infinite horizons. But it was never empty.
“People came from every point of the compass. To the Spanish who traveled up from Mexico, it was the North. The British and French Explorers arrived by traveling South, and the Chinese and Russians, by going East. It was the Americans, the last who arrived, who named it the West, but to the people who were already there, it was home–the center of the universe.
“They had lived there so long that their stories of creation linked them to the land itself. The Commanches said that they came from swirls of dust–the Hidatsa from the bottom of the big lake. Among the bundles of the Zunis was a stone, they said, within which beats the heart of the world.
“But soon there would be other myths–myths of golden cities, treasure for the taking, souls in need of salvation. and another longer-lasting myth, eventually pursued by two Americans across the vastness of the West itself, the myth of an elusive Northwest Passage that would lead them and their nation to the sea.
“In their footsteps, more American followed–mountain men and missionaries, solitary adventures, and wagon trains of hopeful pioneers, a washed-up Tennesse politician who found a second chance in the West and carved out a new republic of his own. A broad-shouldered carpenter from Vermont who declared himself chosen by God to lead his persecuted people to sanctuary in the desert, and the delicate Wellesley graduate who battled floods, disease, and financial ruin yet never lost her love of the West.
“Gold was discovered, and the world rushed in–Chinese peasants and South American aristocrats, and the peach grower from upstate New York who left his wife and daughter in search of easy riches, only to find nothing except what he would remember as the greatest adventure of his life.
I think that the West is the most powerful reality in the history of this country. It’s always had a power, a presence, an attraction that differentiated it from the rest of the United States. Whether the West was a place to be conquered, or the West as it is today, a place to be protected and nurtured. It is the regenerative force of America.
– J. S. Holliday
“It is a land of broad rivers and vast deserts, deep canyons and impenetrable mountains, boundless prairies and endless forests, a place where towering monoliths and boiling waters rise naturally from the earth.” – Opening Lines of Season 1 Episode 1 – The West, a PBS Series by Ken Burns