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1st U.S. kids’ series with indigenous lead starts

PBS via AP

This image shows characters Molly, left, and her mother in a scene from the series “Molly of Denali.”

The Associated Press ANCHORAGE (AP) — Princess Daazhraii Johnson grew up eating dried salmon and moose-head soup — foods labeled weird by other kids who had no understanding of her culture and traditions.

Now the Fairbanks woman and other Alaska Natives are presenting their world to a general audience with “Molly of Denali,” the nation’s first-ever children’s series featuring indigenous leads. The animated show, which premieres July 15 on PBS Kids, highlights the adventures of a 10-year-old Athabascan girl, Molly Mabray. Her family owns the Denali Trading Post in the fictitious community of Qyah, whose residents are both native and non-native.

“We have an opportunity with this show, with ‘Molly of Denali,’ to inform and to show us in a positive and respectful light,” says Johnson, creative producer of the series and a member of an Athabascan group, Neets’aii Gwich’in. Her family has roots in Arctic Village, Ala., but she grew up all over the state, she says, including summers spent with her grandmother in the Gwich’in village of Fort Yukon.

Native Americans voice the indigenous characters in the series, which is co-produced by Boston-based WGBH and animation partner Atomic Cartoons in collaboration with Alaska native advisers and scriptwriters.

Molly is voiced by 14-year-old Sovereign Bill of Auburn, Wash. Bill, who auditioned for the role after hearing about it through a Seattle-based native youth theater group, is a member of the Muckleshoot Indian tribe in Washington.Speech

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