New PBS Kids' show focuses on Alaska Native Culture

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - The first Native American lead character of a national children's series will be an Athabascan girl. 10 year old Molly Mabray lives in the fictional village of Qyah, which mean community in Dena’ina. According to the shows creators, she also has ancestry lines that tie to the Gwich’in, Koyukon and Dena’ina tribes. The world Premiere of the show was held right here in Fairbanks, Alaska, on the University Campus in the Davis Concert Hall.
The UA College Savings Plan were the local sponsors of the event. Executive Director, Lael Oldmixon, says they decided to sponsor the show because Molly is a positive role model for all Alaskans.

"Molly of Denali has had so many Alaskans working on it all across the state," said Oldmixon. "People who are writers, children who are actors; there are so many folks that are invested in seeing Molly succeed."

There were Alaska Native inspired stations for children to learn about Molly's culture before the screening. Traditional wood carving, drum decorating, beading and more activities were available to those who attended.

One of the episodes that aired at the screening was about native names, the title given to individuals within their tribe that describes who they are. Molly's native name is 'Shahnyaa,' which mean 'one who informs them' in the Gwich'in Athabascan language. Many of the episodes will focus on Alaska Native culture. According to Sovereign Bill, the voice actress for Molly, the characters catchphrase is ‘Mahsi’ Choo,’ which means 'Thank you' in Gwich'in. Bill herself is Alaska Native, descending from both Tlingit and Muckleshoot. She says she is excited to have Alaska Native culture shown nationwide.

"It's not only, giving good representation to just Native Americans in general," began Sovereign Bill; "but to Alaska Natives and showing the difference between natives all around."

Dorothea Gillim, Creator and Executive Director of the show, was also at the screening. She spoke on Moll'y fictional village.

"It's a beautiful diverse community for all sorts of folks," said Gillim. "We really wanted to reflect the diversity of Alaska and it was wonderful to look out at the audience and see that today."

Gillim said there was no better community than Fairbanks to share Molly with for the first time.

Molly of Denali will premiere on 'PBS Kids' July 15th. Locals will be able to watch the show on KUAC.