Illustration by Jules Struck

This children’s TV show helps Indigenous voices thrive

How people are portrayed in media can transform how audiences view themselves and one another. What does it take to represent communities well? Episode 2 of the podcast series “Say That Again?”

Episode 2: Hey Ma, I’m on TV!

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From the start, “Molly of Denali” meant to put Indigenous voices at the center of its storytelling. The animated children’s show from PBS and WGBH is the first in the United States to have an Alaska Native lead character: 10-year-old Molly Mabray, who in her adventures confronts the joys and challenges of modern life in rural Alaska.

Episodes regularly feature Alaska Native languages, customs, and history. And Indigenous actors, writers, producers, and language experts all make the stories and characters as authentic as possible.

“We knew that this story was not ours to tell,” says executive producer Dorothea Gillim. “And so our intention was to partner with Alaska Natives in the development of the characters in the world.”

Tia Tidwell, a mother of four, says she’s grateful to finally see and hear her people represented in realistic and affirming ways – that are also appropriate for children.

“It’s like seeing some of the experiences that I had ... in a situation where there’s a positive way to respond,” says Ms. Tidwell, a member of the Nunamiut people, from Alaska’s northwest region. “I did not have that when I was a kid.”

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Episode transcript

Jessica Mendoza: So I guess we'd love to ask, who here watches Molly of Denali?  

Students: I do. Me! Me! Even though I'm like, 10. [Laughs]

Mendoza: Who are your favorite characters?  

Students: My favorite character is Molly. My favorite character is Molly. My favorite character is Molly, because she has a bob.  

Mendoza: She does have that. 

Elizabeth Blackbird: Let me zoom in on her hair. [Laughs]


Blackbird: One, two, three. 

Students: You are listening to "Say That Again?" 


Mendoza: Hello and welcome to "Say That Again?" A podcast about how we sound, how we listen, and why that matters. From The Christian Science Monitor. I’m Jessica Mendoza.

Jingnan Peng: And I’m Jingnan Peng. 


Mendoza: So from the time we first came up with this podcast, many moons ago, Jing and I knew we wanted to do an episode on how languages and accents are represented in the media. 

Peng: Our idea was, there are all these conversations – in the US, at least – about how characters on TV and in movies should reflect what people really look like. 

Mendoza: But what about the way characters sound? You know, their accents, the languages they use, their voices? 

Peng: Today on Say That Again? we look at a groundbreaking children’s show about communities whose stories have been silenced for generations. And it puts language and accent at the heart of its storytelling. 

Mendoza: We talk to the creators, and we visit fans –

Peng: – in Alaska! 

Mendoza: And we hear from experts about how kids use voices and accents to make sense of the world – and their place in it. 

Peng: This is Episode 2: “Hey Ma, I’m On TV!” 

Molly: Hey everyone, it’s me, Molly!

Mendoza: So for those of you not plugged into the latest in public TV for kids, “Molly of Denali” is an animated series by PBS Kids and produced by GBH Boston. The show came out in 2019. And it’s about a 10-year-old girl named Molly Mabray. 

Peng: Molly is Alaska Native. Her parents run a trading post in the fictional Alaska town of Qyah. (That’s spelled Q-Y-A-H.) The series follows Molly and her friends Tooey and Treeni –

Mendoza: – and her dog Suki –

Peng: – as they go on adventures and learn all about the world around them.

Mendoza: Jing and I watched a bunch of episodes, probably more than either of us has watched a kids’ show since we were kids. And in a lot of ways it’s what you’d expect from an educational TV show that’s meant for 4- to 8-year-olds: It’s lighthearted, sweet, a little goofy sometimes. 

Molly: [Gasps] You should sing with us at the show tonight!

Grandpa Nat: [Sighs] I’m sorry, Segoya, I don’t sing anymore.

Molly: But how can you not sing? Everybody sings!

Peng: But the show is also willing to take on some big issues that have shaped the identity, and language, of Indigenous communities in Alaska. 

Mendoza: Like the excerpt we just played. That was from Season 1, the very first episode. And it’s called “Grandpa’s Drum.” Here’s the rest of the scene: 

Grandpa Nat: I don’t sing anymore because I don’t have my drum. I gave it away and poof! All the songs I knew went with it. I cannot sing a note.

Peng: In this episode, Molly and her friend Tooey try to track down her grandpa’s drum, and find out why he stopped singing. They learn that for a long time, Native children in the U.S. were sent to boarding schools – where their cultures were repressed. 

Woman: At the school we weren’t allowed to sing the songs of our people. It was forbidden. They only wanted us to sing new songs. Their songs. In English. …  So your grandpa, he said, “If I can’t sing our songs, I just won’t sing anymore. Ever.”

Mendoza: The episode sets the tone for the series. For one thing – and we’ll hear from fans of the show about this later – it says right off the bat that “Molly of Denali” is going to tell stories that don’t often make it to mainstream TV. 

Peng: The creators also want to make sure that those stories are told from Native and Indigenous perspectives. In our previous episode, we talked about how language and voice are inseparable from identity. 

Mendoza: Please check out Episode 1 if you haven’t yet!

Peng: They’re truly intertwined. And so when it comes to TV, portraying communities in a meaningful way means also being intentional about the way characters speak. Right?

Mendoza: Since Jing and I aren’t the target audience for “Molly of Denali,” we turned to the people who are. Or at least, who are being represented. 

Peng: And that led us to Alaska. 

Peng: Wow, this is nice.  

Peng: Specifically, we went to Fairbanks. It’s a city in the middle of the state, what locals call “the interior.” And one of the people we met there was Tia Tidwell.

Mendoza: Tia is a university professor. She and her husband Alex are raising four kids: Jacob and Celah, who at the time we met them were 11, Qianna, who was 7, and Winnie, who was 4. (And their dog, Fancy.)

Tia Tidwell: Hi!

Peng: Hi!

Mendoza: Hi!

Tidwell: I have a puppy. 

Peng: Oh, hi.

Tidwell: She's really gentle, but if you pet her, she’ll never let you stop petting her. 

Mendoza: OK.

Peng: Tia and her family love “Molly of Denali.” 

Tidwell: I mean do I sound like a really bad parent if I say last weekend, I think they watched “Molly of Denali” for like three hours straight? [Laughter] My husband and I are generally trying to limit the amount of screen time that they have. But the nice thing about “Molly of Denali” is I can turn it on and walk away because I know that they're not receiving harmful messages about Native people when they're watching it. I can be like, “‘Molly of Denali,’ it's good,” and then I can like, go finish my emails. 

Peng: But it’s not just the messaging. For Tia, a big part of why she loves the show is the way the characters sound.

Tidwell: You know, I really like the – I don't remember her name. She runs the radio in Qyah. She's kind of like an older woman character, and she sounds like all of the Native women that I know that age. 

Mendoza: Is it Auntie Midge?

Tidwell: Yes! Auntie Midge. I absolutely love Auntie Midge and the way she sounds. 

Auntie Midge: A good radio message is just like me – short and sweet. [Chuckles]

Tidwell: She’s probably my favorite voice on the show. When I hear those voices, I recognize those voices and that – the sound. It feels like I'm listening to people in my own community, like beloved family members. It warms my whole soul up.


Mendoza: Tia has a mixed background. Her mom is white, but her dad’s side of the family is from Anaktuvuk Pass –

Tidwell: – which is a small village in the Brooks Range. There's about 400 people there on a good day.

Mendoza: The main language in the region is called Inupiaq. And Tia’s people are the Nunamiut people –

Tidwell: – and that's N-U-N-A-M-I-U-T. “Nuna” means land so inland, and then “miut” is people. And so inland people.

I love to, to hear the dialect of English being spoken and also the Native words that are used throughout the show. I think that part of what gives it that texture of realness is the voices of living, real Alaska Native people.


Yatibaey Evans: That's been a very big part of the show is making sure that all of our characters are as much as possible represented by Indigenous people. 

Mendoza: This is Yatibaey Evans, the show’s creative producer. Yatibaey herself is Alaska Native, a member of the Ahtna people.

Evans: In a recent – one of our Series 2 episodes, we have a Yup’ik girl who is meeting Molly. And we searched for quite a while to get an authentic voice to play that character. 

Peng: That intentionality also applies to languages. 

Evans: From the onset it was really important to make sure our Indigenous language was part, a big part of “Molly of Denali.” So one of the goals that we have is to always incorporate, you know, two or more Native language words within every story.

Peng: For context, there are more than 200 Alaska Native tribes. Among them, they have about 20 distinct languages. Not dialects – languages. 

Mendoza: How do you decide which languages to feature in any given episode? 

Evans: So we're not just, you know, inputting different Alaska Native languages kind of willy-nilly. We want to make sure that it's real and accurate and not just something that's inserted afterwards. Like, Molly will often speak Gwich'in because part of her heritage is Gwich'in. And so that's where mahsi’ choo comes from. 

Molly: Mahsi’ choo! Thanks for asking… 

Evans: It's the native word in Gwich'in for thank you. So she's not just, you know, incorporating Yup'ik unless she's speaking to, say, Tooey, who is Yup'ik, and Koyukon, and part Japanese. 

Peng: So something to note at this point. There’s a reason that “Molly of Denali’s” creators made language and accent central to a show about Alaska Native communities: because Alaska Native languages are in danger of disappearing. 

Mendoza: As of 2020, about half of them have only a handful of speakers left who are considered “highly proficient.” And some Alaska Native languages have no advanced speakers left at all.

Peng: A big part of why they are disappearing is forced assimilation. 

Mendoza: It’s not the only factor. And that history is more nuanced than we can really get into in this episode. 

Peng: But in the years before and right after Alaska became a state in 1959, there was a huge effort to make English the main language among Alaska Natives. This effort often involved physical abuse. And it really damaged Indigenous languages and cultures. 

Mendoza: In a future episode of this podcast, we’ll talk more about language suppression and how Alaska Natives today are responding. But we mention it now just to say: That history is the bedrock of a lot of the storytelling in “Molly of Denali.”

Peng: Remember “Grandpa’s Drum” – the first episode of Season 1? That episode talks explicitly about the ways Native peoples were silenced. 

Grandpa Nat: Oh, Molly. 

Molly: Tooey and I found your friend in the picture. And brought back your drum. Do you have your songs again?

Grandpa Nat: [Sighs] I left them so far behind. They’ll need to find their way back to me.

Tidwell: I was not expecting that for episode number one. I'm like, so proud they came out of the gate strong like that.

Mendoza: Tia Tidwell again, the mother in Fairbanks.

Tidwell: But it was unexpected. And we all knew that it was a really big deal that the stories were going to be coming from our communities. So we were really eager for it to come out. 

And when it finally did, we as an entire family gathered in our bedroom and we're all on our bed and we like pulled open the laptop. The first episode was “Grandpa's Drum.” And I think the kids really liked the show, it’s fun, they're in their parents bed, they're watching a cartoon, it’s great. And then they're like, Mom is over here just sobbing. Like, “Mom, are you OK?”

My aana, who's my grandma, was taken to boarding school when she was 9. And she made the very intentional choice not to speak Inupiaq to her children – and she talked to me about this when I was a child – because she didn't want her children to face the physical abuse that she faced as a child. So I am not a fluent speaker in Inupiaq and that's hard for me. I really wish that I was.

So we're, I'm crying and they're – it was kind of an opportunity for me to talk about why that was emotional, to see a grandfather talk about boarding school and in a way that was appropriate and digestible for our younger children. Because I mean that history is so important for them to know. And yet it's so hard to talk about it. 

Mendoza: I told you that I cried when I saw “Grandpa’s Drum,” right? 

Peng: Yeah. You watched it like, what, five times? 

Mendoza: Yes. And I cried every time.

Peng: What made you cry?

Mendoza: You know, I think I had not spent a lot of time thinking about what it’s like to not have a choice in the languages that you speak. You know that I grew up in the Philippines. And so I speak Tagalog, I love that language.I live here in the States now. And I also love English. But I’ve never felt like I had to stop speaking one language, or abandon one language, in favor of the other. And I think it was really emotional for me to watch in this way, to see people have to grapple with that. And to sort of recognize that that choice didn’t exist and still doesn’t exist for a lot of people. It just sort of forced me to take a new perspective that I hadn’t really considered before.

Peng: Yeah. Yeah, same for me. And also I just loved how Molly went trhough all those efforts to find Grandpa Nat’s drum for him. You know, she – I really feel her love her for her grandpa. And it’s such a beautiful gift. 

Mendoza: Yeah. Yeah.

Peng: Well, for a show for 4-year-olds, that really had an effect on us.

Mendoza: You know, I’m just glad that at my age I can still serve as a proxy for the target audience for this program. 

Peng: But I guess one thing this has got me thinking about is: How is “Molly of Denali” different from kids’ shows from over the past decades? And for the rest of us who are not Alaska Native, what is at stake? 

Mendoza: Right, right. So to answer that, we look into one of my favorite movies: "The Lion King." 

Peng: We’ll be right back. 


Clay Collins: Hi, there. I’m Clay Collins, an editor here at the Monitor. I hope you’re enjoying this episode, and this podcast. Have you ever felt as though pop-culture depictions of the way you speak are just way off? Or have you been impressed by the way a program or film has rendered your accent or language with respect? Drop us a note – your story, or just a comment – at podcast@csmonitor.com. And if you did like this episode, please share it with someone else who would, too. Thank you.


Peng: Welcome back. You’re listening to Say That Again? A podcast about how we sound, how we listen, and why that matters. I’m Jing. 

Mendoza: And I’m Jess. 

Calvin Gidney: When I first saw the original Lion King movie I was disturbed by the messages, the meta-messages that were coming through. 

Peng: This is Calvin Gidney.

Gidney: But everybody calls me Chip Gidney.

Peng: He’s a sociolinguist and professor at Tufts University, in Medford, just outside Boston. Professor Gidney runs the Children’s Television Project along with his colleague, media literacy expert Julie Dobrow. 

Mendoza: They call the project CTV for short. It’s a long-running study on representation in children’s media. And it all started because of The Lion King. Here’s Professor Dobrow.

Dobrow: Chip and I had both seen the movie the same weekend, and we were chatting about having seen it and sort of said to each other, "Did you notice something a little strange about that film?"  

Gidney: You'll remember that The Lion King is about the natural hierarchy of, of the jungle, and when that goes out of balance. And the “good” characters spoke standard American English, or mainstream English, as it’s sometimes called. 

Simba: But I thought a king can do whatever he wants.

Mufasa: Oh, there’s more to being king than getting your way all the time.

Simba: There’s more?

Gidney: The “evil” characters spoke either British English – that's Scar, the evil lion – 

Scar: Simba, it’s to die for. 

Gidney: – or they spoke African-American English, or Spanish-accented English, the hyenas. 

Shenzi: There ain’t no way I’m going in there! What, you want me to come out looking like you, cactus butt? 

Bonzai: But we gotta finish the job!

Gidney: And then the characters Timon and Pumbaa spoke dialects of English that are sort of commonly associated with white working-class dialects. 

Timon: So what’s your plan for getting past those guys?

Simba: Live bait.

Timon: Good idea. Hey!

Gidney: So with the help of the characters that spoke white, working-class English, Simba took back his, in quotes, “proper place” in the jungle. 

Mendoza: So I’m just going to say, I still love The Lion King. I’m just going to be more circumspect about the messaging –

Peng: – uh-uh, Lion King is cancelled, you can’t like it anymore – 

Mendoza: – judicious, discerning, all of those things about the messaging, OK?

Peng: Well, here’s the thing: The Lion King wasn’t a fluke. CTV studied characters in a whole range of TV shows through the ‘90s and early 2000s. And – 

Gidney: We find pretty consistently that in US television, heroes and heroines speak mainstream English. Villains are more likely to speak a nonstandard dialect or an accented English. Minor characters or walk-on characters also are given accents. So a walk-on character might say, "Well, I never..." you know, in a British accent and automatically you think, “Oh, a rich woman, a rich snobby woman.” 

Peng: By the way – we’ll be saying this throughout the podcast – everyone has an accent. In this case, though, we’re using the word to mean a way of speaking that’s different from what’s considered the standard American accent.

Gidney: So if you think of a character like Bugs Bunny, that has a sort of smart-alecky urban white, sort of working-class dialect, right?

Bugs Bunny: Eh, what’s up, doc? 

Gidney: – or Speedy Gonzalez, who has again, an exaggerated Mexican Spanish accent. 

Speedy Gonzales: You imagining things. I don’t see nothing.

Mendoza: Do you have any idea how these accents came to be used in this way to begin with? 

Dobrow: In most animated programs, you know, you have 22 minutes for a half-hour program. It's not a lot of time in which to develop character. So that's why this kind of shorthand evolved.

Mendoza: What were those accents meant to achieve? 

Gidney: Perhaps to just, to create a quick stereotype, an impressionistic idea about that character. I do this with our students. I ask them to say, how does an old person sound? And almost invariably, the students will say things like, "sonny," and with a sort of tremulous voice, you know. So it becomes very easy to see these vocal stereotypes matched to age and race and ethnicity and socioeconomic status.  

Dobrow: And gender. 

Gidney: My ideal, Jess, is that if somehow there's a way to divorce dialect and how we sound from any other sort of metaphorical marker. You know, like, you can't hear a good person or a bad person in the dialect they use. So there's no reason in media that there has to be some sort of linkage between a person's character and the way they speak. I would like to see good characters that speak in non-standard dialects and bad characters that speak in standard dialects, because we know that both exist in real life. You know?  

Mendoza: Let's mix it up a bit.

Gidney: Yeah. 


Peng: So two things here: First, there aren’t any heroes or villains in “Molly of Denali.” It’s an educational show. And it focuses on representing certain communities, so it’s not trying to confront all the stereotypes in children’s media today. 

Mendoza: The other thing is that “Molly” is not the only show that’s doing diversity work today. In fact some children’s programs have been doing it for years – think “Sesame Street.” If you go to our episode page, we’ve got links to other kids’ shows that feature characters of color and different cultures, in ways that actually matter. Head to csmonitor.com/SayThatAgain. 

Peng: OK. So, kids have been exposed to stereotypes for maybe as long as TV has been around. What is the effect of that?

Mendoza: We put the question to Katherine Kinzler. 

Katherine Kinzler: Let's imagine a child as a little statistical calculator, which I think there's actually good evidence that they are.

Peng: Professor Kinzler is the chair of the department of psychology at the University of Chicago. She also wrote the book, “How You Say It, ” which is about the biases we have about speech. 

Kinzler: So you show them one kids’ movie. Perhaps it depicts a foreign accented speaker as being a bad guy. And you know, it's really hard to know, is that prejudice? Is it not? [Does] it just, you know, it fit with the plot of this particular movie? And, you know, with what we'd say “an n of 1,” in terms of one data point, not really anything to make much of, it's really hard to know. 

But now send your little child statistical calculator out there in the world and have her watch 10 movies or 20 movies or 100 movies. And then you might notice that there are certain ways that people are depicted that are going to come up again and again. And even if she has an occasional counterexample, she's going to be able to add those instances up.

Mendoza: And over time, that repeated exposure – 

Kinzler: It impacts the way they see others, and it impacts the way that they see themselves. Kids and adults can learn that, “The way that I speak isn't valued by society. My voice isn't seen as one that people respect.”


Mendoza: So I’ve been thinking a lot about, you know, whether the shows and movies that I watched when I was growing up actually informed sort of the way that I see the world. I really did love The Lion King, and a lot of other movies that II’m just now as an adult kind of recognizing might have been a little problematic in the way that they portrayed non-white, non-Western characters especially. So like Aladdin, Peter Pan, Pocahontas. And I’ve been asking myself, did seeing and hearing those stereotypes – and still loving those shows and movies anyway – like, did that make me more prejudiced? And I think the answer is… kind of? Because I came into this project with biases of my own, including around the way people speak. And I still find myself trying to fight those instincts, or like trying to not be defensive about them. Even whie we’re reporting on them. Even while we’re supposed to have known better already. 

Peng: Well, I watched those Disney movies in Mandarin, so, I’m bias-free.

Mendoza: Wow, OK. Thanks, good for you. [Laughs]

Peng: But seriously. Seriously, you know, I sometimes catch myself feeling unnecessary distrust when I hear a certain accent over the phone. And yeah, maybe media is a reason for that. 

Mendoza: Mm, right.

Peng: And so when we talked to the creators of “Molly of Denali,” we asked them a little bit about this. Like what were the steps they took to avoid those pitfalls when they were producing the show? What did they do differently?

Dorothea Gillim: We knew that this story was not ours to tell.

Mendoza: Dorothea Gillim is the executive producer of “Molly of Denali.” She is not Alaska Native –

Gillim: – and so our intention was to partner with Alaska Natives in the development of the characters in the world and to work very closely with them.

Mendoza: GBH put together a working group made up of Alaska Native elders and cultural advisors to consult on everything from big issues to little details. 

Peng: And every Indigenous character in the show is voiced by an Indigenous actor. Even the theme song is sung by members of an Alaska Native band. 

Mendoza: In all, more than 75 Alaska Native writers, actors, musicians, producers, and advisors are part of the series.

Peng: And the creators told us they’re not just there for the diversity points. 

Gillim: We go into our sort of discussions with writers just wanting to find out from them what kind of stories they're interested in telling. You know, some of them can be Alaska Native stories that haven't been widely told in mainstream media. Some of them are just really great culture stories, and some of them have to do with, you know, the joys and challenges of living in Alaska as a place.

Mendoza: They also make sure episodes include values that matter to Alaska Native communities, like – 

Evans: – showing respect to others as well as the environment –

Mendoza: Yatibaey Evans again, the show’s creative producer. 

Evans: – sharing, knowing who you are, honoring your elders, and of course, humor.  We work together as a production team within an Excel document to note which episodes are incorporating the different values.

Mendoza: If there's one thing that we should keep in mind about what it takes to create a show that honors different cultures and communities, and why it's worth it, what would that be?

Gillim: I would say it takes a willingness to build trust and to be OK not having the answers. Capacity building, to you know, invest time and resources to sort of both access the talent and develop it. And I would say the payoff, the benefit is that, boy, we're, you know, bringing stories to the screen that have never been told before and that are so enriching and vital for kids today. 


Mendoza: So Jing, we actually talked about this when we were putting this episode together. Like, what do you want your future, hypothetical kids to be watching? And it’s super corny, right, but they’re going to be shaping the future. 

Peng: Yeah.

Mendoza: And personally, I would want my kids to be exposed to shows that you know, make them more open-minded and kind and compassionate and better than I am.

Peng: I don’t think it’s corny, Jess. I mean, the kids are the future. Just like you say.

Mendoza: OK. 

Whitney Houston: I believe the children are our future…

Peng: Anyways, it’s worth noting that “Molly of Denali” got recognized for its efforts in doing that. In 2019, it won a Peabody Award for, quote, “helping to shift the ways that the next generation will think about Indigenous people and for giving native media-makers a central role in shaping their own representation.”

Qianna Hirsch: Mommy, look at these!

Tidwell: Oh wow, did you make these?

Qianna: Yup!

Alex Hirsch: Hello!

Tidwell: Let me see. Hey, babe.

Hirsch: Hey.

Peng: Back in Fairbanks, we sat down with Tia Tidwell and her family to watch the first episode of Season 2. At the time, the new season had just come out. 

TV: Hey everyone, it’s me, Molly! [Molly of Denali theme song]

Tidwell / Winnie Hirsch: Molly of Denali!

Winnie: Now I know it. 

Mendoza: It was late afternoon. The kids had just come home from school so the whole family was there. Tia, Alex, and all four children.

Peng: Most of them sat on the couch, but Qi, who’s 7, she sat on the floor with her face right up close to the TV. 

Molly: That's my mom. She knows all the best glaciers to show you. 

Tourist: Your mom? 

Molly: The best pilot in Alaska. 

Mendoza: The episode was about Molly and Tooey’s interaction with a pair of tourists who don’t really believe that they’re Alaska Native. 

Tourist: Shouldn't you be wearing things like feathers in your hair? 

Hirsch: [Chuckles]

Tourist: Yeah, and beaded leather clothes? 

Peng: For Tia, the story really struck home. 

Tidwell: So growing up in Alaska, I worked in a million different types of jobs. I worked in coffee shops, I worked in tourist shops scooping ice cream. And you would get like the tourists. They’d come off the bus. And I would get asked, like, “Are you a real Eskimo? Can I take a picture with you?” And being like 12 or 14, I was like, “Sure? Like, OK.”

I feel like “Molly of Denali,” for me, it's like seeing some of the experiences that I had, but then also seeing it in a situation where there's a positive way to respond to it. And she had so much support for – I'm going to tear up right now. She had so much support for her feeling like she's enough. 

That positive messaging, like I did not have that when I was a kid. But I did experience what Molly experienced in that show. It was just without seeing that type of story on TV. So I'm just grateful that my kids have that.


Tidwell: Your voice is shaped by place, right? And Indigenous people are shaped by place. That’s what makes an Indigenous person Indigenous. Like when I hear Auntie Midge, for instance, it makes me think of salmon and beading and sewing atikluks. And being in the woods. That voice captures a lot of that for me.


Mendoza: So Tia talking about Auntie Midge in that way actually makes me think of "Grandpa's Drum" again. And how almost every person we interviewed for this episode brought it up.

Peng: Yeah. It came up again and again. So at the end of that story, Molly and Tooey return Grandpa Nat’s drum to him. By doing that, they help him find his voice again. 


Mendoza: That’s it for today’s episode! Thanks for listening, or as Molly likes to say –

Students: Mahsi’ choo!

Peng: If you know someone who has a story about their voice, language, or accent, please share this episode with them! Just hit the share button on whatever platform you’re on, or send them the link to our site: csmonitor.com/saythatagain. 

Mendoza: Lots of people made this episode possible! A very big thank you to Elizabeth Blackbird, Charleen Fisher, and the staff, parents, and kids at Cruikshank School in Beaver, Alaska. Those were the voices you heard at the beginning and end of today’s episode.

Peng: Also thank you to Katherine Kinzler, special adviser to this project. You’ll be hearing from her throughout this podcast. And thank you to the folks at GBH for their input and for the clips from “Molly of Denali.” 

Mendoza: And to Brianna Gray, who directs Alaska Native Education at the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. She connected us with so many people we interviewed for this episode. And we had fun getting ice cream with her and her kids. This episode was written, reported, and produced by me, Jessica Mendoza.

Peng: And me, Jingnan Peng. It was edited by Clay Collins and Trudy Palmer. Sound design by Morgan Anderson and Noel Flatt. Additional sound elements from Entertainment Access, Screen Themes, Disney and Spirit Lover, and WB Kids. Our sensitivity reader is Arielle Gray. 

Mendoza: This podcast was brought to you by The Christian Science Monitor. Copyright, 2022.