Award-winning PBS Kids show Molly of Denali provides representation for Alaska Native cultures

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) Molly of Denali, a PBS Kids show set in Alaska and featuring the adventures of an Alaska Native girl named Molly, has been awarded the George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting.

Molly of Denali premiered nationally in July 2019. (Photo courtesy of WGBH Education Foundation)

According to a press release, the show is “the first nationally distributed children’s series to feature a Native American lead character.”

Princess Daazhraii Johnson, writer and creative producer for the show, explained the importance of representation in the media, saying, “We are fundamentally changing the way the public sees us as indigenous people.” She added, “The media plays an enormous role in shaping how people see us as Indigenous people.”

According to Johnson, historically certain groups in the U.S. have not received accurate representation. “People of color have not had that good representation in the media, and that has translated into really harmful stereotypes,” she said.

While Johnson says it is wonderful to be acknowledged by the Peabody Award, “The reactions from our own community members when we first premiered and since then have been what is most meaningful,” she said.

She also hopes that Alaska Native youth, including her children, will be positively affected by the show. “The fact that they are seeing this positive representation of themselves is extremely important,” Johnson said.

Dewey KK’ołeyo Hoffman, an Alaska Native Collaborator with the show, serves as an adviser to ensure that the show accurately represents the cultures being portrayed.

According to Hoffman, these cultures contain 20 distinct languages, He expressed the importance of portraying Alaskan Native culture on its own terms. “Being compared to white people is not right. We should be compared to ourselves and be able to tell our own stories,” he said.

Hoffman described the large amount of time that went into the production of the show, adding, “To see that people are not only enjoying it, but seeing how it is shaping conversations in the industry, and with families, that means a lot.”

Concerning the show’s method of portraying Alaska Native cultures, Hoffman said, “It is useful to learn and use our languages and our traditions in a contemporary way.”

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