New animated series offers first indigenous lead character

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
"Molly of Denali" premieres on PBS and PBS Kids stations on July 15.

FARMINGTON — Rochelle Adams did not know what to expect when the new PBS Kids animated series, "Molly of Denali," was screened in Washington, D.C., earlier this year.

Adams, a cultural adviser for the program, watched attentively as Molly Mabray, the central character who is a 10-year-old Alaska Native – a first for a nationally distributed children's series – greeted viewers in the Gwich'in language.

"She was speaking Gwich'in – speaking my language. To see that on the screen, I almost started crying. It was such a moment," said Adams, who is Gwich'in and Koyukon and originally from the villages of Beaver and Fort Yukon in Alaska.

The program follows Molly's adventures with friends and family as they show life in the fictional village of Qyah, Alaska.

The series is co-produced by Boston-based WGBH and animation partner, Atomic Cartoons, in collaboration with Alaska Native advisers and script writers.

A scene from the "Grandpa's Drum" episode for "Molly of Denali."

Adams said in a telephone interview that her involvement started in 2016 when producers were seeking Dena'ina cultural bearers to present an accurate representation of Alaska Natives and of life in the state.

The series accomplishes this by having diverse characters and educating viewers about Alaska Native cultures, history, languages and traditions, Adams said.

"It's kind of like we're reclaiming our voices. I feel like we're indigenizing this whole system because there's Native people involved at every step of this process," she said.

The program will broadcast on New Mexico PBS Channel 5.1 and on New Mexico PBS Kids Channel 5.2 starting on July 15.

Rochelle Adams

Evy Todd, publicist for New Mexico PBS, said while the show is offered to a nationwide audience, it fits perfectly with what the station has always offered to its viewers.

The station recently celebrated its 60th anniversary and, within those years, it has developed and aired programs focusing on Native Americans, Todd said.

"It was wonderful to hear this program was coming," she said.

The new children's program, "Molly of Denali," will premiere on PBS and PBS Kids on July 15.

When does 'Molly of Denali' broadcast?

The series starts with a 60-minute episode that will broadcast on Channel 5.1 at 9:30 a.m., and at 2 p.m. on July 15.

A repeat of the episode will air on Channel 5.1 at 9:30 a.m. and at 2 p.m. on July 19.

It will also show on Channel 5.2 at noon and 7 p.m. on July 15, at 1 p.m. on July 17, at 7 p.m. on July 26, July 27 and July 28.

The series will start its 30-minute episodes at its regular time on Channel 5.1 at 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. weekdays and on Channel 5.2 at 7:30 p.m. weekdays.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at