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PBS premieres first nationally distributed kids' show with Native American lead

The Hill logo The Hill 7/16/2019 Marina Pitofsky
a close up of a sign: PBS premieres first nationally distributed kids' show with Native American lead © PBS PBS premieres first nationally distributed kids' show with Native American lead

PBS's new show "Molly of Denali" premiered Monday, making it the first nationally distributed children's show with a Native American lead.

The show follows Molly Mabray, an adventurous 10-year-old Athabascan girl running a video blog about her life in rural Alaska. The show will follow Molly as she and her friends solve problems like keeping animals out of their garden.

To make the show as authentic as possible, the Boston PBS broadcaster WGBH involved more than 60 Alaska Native, First Nations and indigenous people to work on scripts, give advice on cultural and language issues, record the theme song and provide voices for the characters. The production had cultural advisers from each region of Alaska featured in the show, according to The New York Times.

"We recognized our own ignorance of the subject and we didn't want to repeat stereotypes," said Dorothea Gillim, one of the show's creators.

Gillim told The New York Times that she was inspired to set the show in Alaska after former President Obama traveled to the state and announced the renaming of Mount McKinley to its Alaska Native name, Denali.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), tweeted her support of the show Monday, urging people to "Tune in to see the first nationally distributed children's series to feature an Alaska Native lead character and to learn about Native cultures, traditions & the uniqueness of Alaska."

The show will also touch on the painful parts of Molly's, also known by her native name Shahnyaa, heritage. In one episode, she sets off to find a drum that her grandfather gave away when he was a child at boarding school because native songs were not allowed there. The story reflects on the forced assimilation campaign by the United States government that took many indigenous children from their communities, The New York Times reported.

"[Molly is] modern. She's not something of the past, something in a museum," Rochelle Adams, one of the advisers on the show, told the newspaper. Adams is an artist and Alaska Native linguist. "She is feisty and educated and holds her culture strongly."


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