Molly of Denali is a new animated series that follows the adventures of 10-year-old Molly Mabray, an Alaska Native girl from the Gwich’in/Koyukon/Dena’ina Athabascan tribes in the fictional village of Qyah. The show is produced by Boston public television station WGBH and aired on PBS stations this month. Molly of Denali is the first nationally distributed children’s series to feature an Alaska Native lead character and one of the first children’s shows to incorporate Alaska Natives in the show’s production.
Alaska Natives were voice actors, cultural advisors, consultants, scriptwriters, and producers.
Throughout the show’s production, Alaska Natives were voice actors, cultural advisors, consultants, scriptwriters, and producers. Sovereign Bill, a 14-year-old from the T’akdeintaan clan of the Tlingit community of Hoonah and of Muckleshoot tribe, voices main character Molly Mabray. Indian Country Today reports that WGBH even developed a scriptwriting fellowship for six Alaska Natives for the show and brought in Alaska Native interns who helped with the design of the show. Show producer Maya Salganek told newspaper Santé Fe New Mexican that she saw a need for Indigenous inclusion in the media. “Having a positive role model like Molly can give us an aspiration of what we all can be,” said Maya, who especially saw a need for Alaska Native inclusion after becoming part of the Tlingit community and seeing the inaccurate perceptions of Alaska Natives.
“We know that Molly isn’t going to be just a kids’ show."
“My youngest son Jude watches PBS for a few minutes every morning before we all run off to work and school. Molly was a refreshing surprise this week,” said Joe Nelson, Board Chair of Sealaska. “We know that Molly isn’t going to be just a kids’ show. Molly is going to be a phenomena, not just because our kids will see themselves and their cousins on the tube. This is a big deal because the next generation of mainstream audiences will know that Native people have always lived in Alaska. Reality TV has reinforced Alaska stereotypes. Molly is going to help put a face on and some meaning behind a real Alaska, an indigenous Alaska. Thank you to PBS and all of our Alaska Native contributors for putting our kids and our elders first.”
Series features traditional Alaska Native foods.
The series will tackle topics such as boarding schools in the episode titled “Grandpa’s Drum”, colonization, identity, and naming ceremonies. It features traditional Alaska Native foods and shows what modern day life is like in remote villages.
Phillip Blanchett, one of the series’ theme song creators, told Indian Country Today, “The early reception to the show all over Alaska has been better than anyone could have hoped. I’ve seen so many Alaska Native faces light up at the recognition of their cultures, or language, or home being showcased in a way that cared and valued who they were, and where they came from.”
To learn more about the show, follow these links.
- Maya Salganek: Show producer
- Boston Globe Interview
- Alaska Public Radio: Sovereign Bill Interview
- Molly comes home: Animated television show on PBS Kids has strong Alaska Native roots
Sovereign Bill learned about this acting opportunity through the youth acting group Red Eagle Soaring. Head to their website to learn more.
Check out the show here: Molly of Denali
This story is written by Amalia Akagi, a communications intern for Sealaska. Amalia graduated from Heritage University with a B.A. in English. She previously worked as a production assistant at KIMA Action News and KUNW Univision (CBS Affiliates).