“Molly of Denali” is one of the biggest shows on PBS — so big that it was recently nominated for the Children’s and Family Emmys in two categories: Outstanding Preschool Animated Series and Outstanding Writing for a Preschool Animated Program. The team behind that outstanding writing includes four Sealaska shareholders: Frank Henry Kaash Katasse, Vera Starbard, X̱’unei Lance Twitchell and ‘Wáats’asdíyei Joe Yates.
Sealaska helped sponsor the team’s travel to Los Angeles to attend the Emmys and surrounding events. Katasse, Starbard, Twitchell and Yates participated in the Children’s and Family Emmys Creative Arts event before walking the red carpet and attending the official Children & Family Emmys Award Ceremony.
Yates graciously documented the team’s Emmy’s trip so Sealaska shareholders could follow along, sharing photos and video clips through an Instagram takeover. His experience with “Molly” began in his final year of college.
“I went from studying for finals one week to working with Emmy Award winners the next,” Yates said. “To be able to tell my stories, sharing our culture, to hear our language on national television is still surreal for me. I didn’t grow up with that. I am beyond grateful that my kids have no idea what that feeling will feel like. They will grow up seeing people like them, like us, on television.”
The team behind “Molly” began from a place of understanding, said Yates, hoping to start a new chapter of media representation for Indigenous people.
“From the very beginning,” he continued, “I felt that they wanted to take each step with an open heart and with the realization of how our people have been treated in the medium of television. For far too long, it felt like our people were invisible, without a voice. It’s an incredible feeling to be recognized at this magnitude. Our people are storytellers, we’ve been doing this for centuries. When we are able to collaborate and given a platform, this is our result. Representation matters.”
“Molly of Denali” offers Indigenous viewers of all ages relatable, family-friendly characters that look and speak like them, delighting children and adults alike with their representation of Alaska Native culture and language. Her appeal reaches beyond Indigenous households, though. While “Molly” is the first children’s show to feature an Alaska Native lead, it offers all children and their families a chance to learn about similarities and differences – along with fun, interactive science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM), culture and language learning opportunities.
The show has between seven and 10 Alaska Native writers on any given episode and has been praised for offering a glimpse into traditional values along with helping children make authentic connections to Alaska Native and other Indigenous cultures.
“Representation really does matter,” Yates reaffirmed. “We are making the new normal. When my kids see our people give each other hope, they will have hope. When they see our people have a voice, they will know they too have a voice and with that people will start listening. When people start listening, that’s when things will start changing. One voice can change the world.”
By showcasing authentic Indigenous perspectives and experiences, “Molly” helps demonstrate the value of traditional knowledge and cultural values in children’s entertainment and education, reaching across Alaska and beyond.
Sealaska celebrates the writers of “Molly of Denali” and applauds this incredible achievement. We extend our warmest congratulations to Katasse, Starbard, Twitchell and Yates along with the whole team behind “Molly”.
Hear Yates tell the story of his Emmys experience in his own words below.