Native Alaskans Finally Get Their Due
In August 2015, a great wrong was corrected by the U.S. government. It was then that the U.S. Secretary of the Interior announced that North America’s highest mountain would be officially named Denali.
Granted, the mountain has been named that for thousands of years, but it took the Obama Administration to respect Native Alaskans and their culture by making that name official from a federal perspective.
Now, starting 15 July 2019, Native Alaskans and their culture will be the stars of a new PBS program for children: Molly of Denali.
Meet Molly, her dog Suki and her friends Tooey and Trini in the new @PBSKIDS series #MollyofDenali. Join the crew on their daily adventures in #Alaska, from fishing for salon, to searching for hidden hot springs, to harvesting herring eggs. Airing Monday, July 15th pic.twitter.com/KI9qwqzwQH
— WFSU Education (@wfsu_education) July 2, 2019
The title character “is voiced by 14-year-old Indigenous actress Sovereign Bill of Auburn, Washington. Bill is of Tlingit and Muckleshoot descent.” When asked what she hopes non-Native audiences will get out of the show, she replied, “I just hope they get a deeper understanding of our culture. Because many kids, or even adults, just think of Alaska as like igloos… they don’t know a lot about Alaska or Alaska Natives. So it’s just breaking those barriers and giving them that knowledge that is needed and was never really there.”
The show’s premiere reveals an ugly part of U.S. history, in which Native children were often forced to attend boarding schools, where the Native children were not permitted to speak their native languages or practice their native customs.
Featured Image: Photograph of mural “Mail Service in the Arctic” by Rockwell Kent (1937). Photographed as part of an assignment for the General Services Administration. Image in Public Domain.
From the General Services Administration via Wikimedia:
“In the 1930s, mail still arrived in Alaska’s ports by ship from Seattle. From there, airplanes commonly transported letters and goods within the state. At each stop, bags were transferred to dog sleds for delivery to their final destinations. Native Alaskans, who were far more familiar with the land and its navigation than recent immigrants, were often hired to drive the dog sleds. This represented a great economic opportunity for a group of people otherwise facing fierce discrimination.”