Longreads and OPB today announced the launch of a new podcast series Bundyville, which chronicles the rise, fall and resurgence of the Bundy family, the armed uprisings they inspired and the fight over the future of the American West.
A trailer for this seven-part series — hosted by award-winning journalist Leah Sottile — is available now on Apple Podcasts, the NPR One app, at opb.org/bundyville or wherever you get your podcasts. The full series will be available beginning May 15. You can also find feature stories that accompany the podcast at longreads.com/bundyville.
Cliven Bundy and his sons first became known during their first Nevada standoff with the federal government in 2014, and then again later in 2016 when they took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon. Despite these armed and very public standoffs against the government, federal prosecutors failed to win convictions in both cases.
Bundyville explores broad questions raised by both the uprisings and the court proceedings that followed. They are questions of power and privilege in modern America, and of how unshakable fringe beliefs can overpower cold, clear fact.
The series also provides a deep dive into the politics and fringe religious beliefs that drive this family and their followers. From prophecies and nuclear testing, to white supremacists and radical plans to shrink public lands, Bundyville explains how one family has beaten the federal government twice — and why this battle has just begun.
Bundyville episodes include:
Episode 1: The Battle
This episode traces back to April 2014 in Bunkerville, Nevada, to chronicle the Bundy’s leadership of two armed uprisings and their two victories over federal prosecutors. It also puts the Nevada and Oregon standoffs in a broader context of the growing far-right movement in America, which has grown steadily and substantially since two violent standoffs in the 1990s — Waco and Ruby Ridge — left dozens of people dead.
Episode 2: The Bomb
Dig into Cliven Bundy’s past and find out where his determination to dismantle the federal government began. It’s a story that takes us back to the government’s nuclear test program in the 1950s — imagine bombs in the Nevada desert — and culminates with Timothy McVeigh bombing the federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people. Along the way, the family patriarch becomes more emboldened to fight back against a government he believes is out to get him.
Episode 3: The Prophecy
To understand the Bundys, and their unwavering belief that they alone can save the United States, you must understand their faith. The Bundys are Mormon and deeply religious, but their beliefs are rooted in fundamentalist scripture disavowed by the modern Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Episode 4: The Living Room
This episode takes listeners where few journalists have gone before: the Bundy family living room. Cliven Bundy tells his side of the story in his own words.
Episode 5: The Followers
Welcome to Bundyville, a ghost town high in the Arizona mountains that used to be home to 200 people, most of them named Bundy. Find out how this family history has helped attract anti-government activists from around the country to Bundy’s cause. The episode also discusses the white privilege and double standards that have allowed far-right extremists inspired by the Bundys to get away with federal crimes.
Episode 6: The Murders
The Bundys want to talk about land rights and Constitutional law, but the fights they pick have real, tragic consequences. This episode assesses the damage done by the Bundys, a chronicle of pain that includes prehistoric artifacts trampled by cattle, politicians making backroom deals to shrink public lands and a pair of Bundy followers who hatched a plot to murder as many police officers as they could find.
Episode 7: The Future
The Bundys walked free in January 2018, but the story is far from over. The family has drawn large crowds on a multi-state speaking tour. Ryan Bundy is running for governor of Nevada. The national debate over public lands has tilted, thanks to President Trump, decidedly to the right. And in other forgotten corners of the west, momentum is building for another armed standoff.
Bundyville is a co-production of Longreads and OPB. Host and Reporter Sottile is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Oregon who covered the Nevada and Malheur occupation court trials for the Washington Post, Rolling Stone, High Country News and Outside magazine. She also frequently discussed the trials as a guest on OPB Radio and OPB’s This Land is Our Land podcast. Sottile’s work has been featured in a variety of national publications.
Producers for Bundyville include Peter Frick-Wright and Robert Carver of 30 Minutes West Productions, and Ryan Haas of OPB. It is edited by Mike Dang of Longreads and Anna Griffin of OPB. Matt Giles of Longreads and Kim Freda of OPB provided research for the series.
Longreads, founded in 2009, is dedicated to helping people find and share the best storytelling in the world. Longreads publishes and curates powerful writing, from personal essays to investigative journalism, and features nonfiction and fiction over 1,500 words.
OPB is a nationally recognized leader in public media, providing news, information and entertainment to the Northwest. With award-winning journalists and original series, OPB illuminates the people, places and issues of the region and puts stories into context. OPB creates content and programming that can be accessed anywhere, at any time on OPB TV, OPB Radio, opb.org and on a variety of digital and social media platforms. For more information, visit www.opb.org.