PBS Kids show portrays Alaska Native culture

On May 9, PBS announced a new animated show, “Molly of Denali,” set to debut on PBS Kids in the summer of 2019.

A Still from “Molly of Denali” from the PBS Press Release Photo credit: PBS

In a press release, PBS wrote “MOLLY OF DENALI is an action-adventure comedy that follows the adventures of feisty and resourceful 10-year-old Molly Mabray, an Alaska Native girl. MOLLY OF DENALI is the first nationally distributed children’s series in the U.S. to feature an Alaska Native lead character.”

Princess Daazhraii Johnson, a Gwich’in Athabascan producer who lives in Fairbanks, is the creative producer for the series. She is also an alumna of UAA.

The series is being produced with support from the U.S. Department of Education. The main roles will be voiced by Alaska Natives.

So far the announcement of the series has largely been met with support and enthusiasm.

“I’m really excited to see it… It’s been advertised that elders and community members helped to put the show together, so I just hope that they do a good job of being authentic and true to Alaska Native culture” UAA student Kalani Tucker, said.

Tucker, who serves as a co-chair of UAA’s Native Student Council is currently pursuing a BA in business management, with a minor in Alaska Native business management.

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“I think just as one of the producers of the show said the world needs Alaska Native views right now. Caring about each other, the environment and doing more listening. So hopefully that’s reflected through the show,” Tucker said.

The series, which is set to feature multiple Alaska Native languages, is being developed with guidance from experts. Lance (X’unei) A Twitchell, assistant of Alaska Native Languages at University of Alaska Southeast, will serve as the show’s Native language advisor.

In the show, Molly helps her family run the “Denali Trading Post” a general store in a fictional village, “Qyah, Alaska.”

“Each episode follows Molly, her dog Suki and her friends Tooey and Trini on their daily adventures in Alaska, from fishing to building snow forts to delivering a camera to friends on a volcano via dog sled,” states the press release.

“I think the show is good,” Aaron Tolen, another co-chair of UAA’s Native Student Council, said. “But, I wonder how much native culture there will actually be incorporated into it. When I was younger, I do wish there was show like this… It would definitely have been a good thing to see someone on TV with the same cultural background,” Tolen said.

Tolen is currently a junior at UAA studying anthropology.

“For some people who don’t live in their hometown or have close connections with their family… they don’t have close connections with their culture… so I think that it would be good for people to be able to connect with their ancestry,” Tolen said.