11-year-old shares springtime fun in Bethel and Yup’ik language on ‘Molly of Denali’

molly of denali
Tooey, Grandpa Nat and Molly from PBS’ Molly of Denali. (PBS)

On Dec. 4, PBS aired a “Molly of Denali” segment shot and narrated by a young fan from Bethel.

The Peabody Award-winning animated children’s television show is the first nationally distributed children’s series featuring an Alaska Native lead character. The show follows its namesake, a 10-year-old Athabascan vlogger, as well as her family, who own the Denali Trading Post.

Each episode features a short live action segment that follows the real life of a young Alaskan. This December, that’s 11-year-old Silas Lefferts from Bethel.

Silas was among five youth chosen from across the state to appear in this season’s segments. The producers sent Silas a camera, and he helped choose what to share from Bethel.

In Silas’ first segment, he takes viewers on a tour of his life during Bethel’s warmer months. It starts with breakup, watching the ice flow down the Kuskokwim River.

With the ice gone, the fishing can begin. He checks blackfish traps with his friends: They’ll use the blackfish as bait for bigger fish.

He dipnets for smelt, pulling up a netful from the river. He tells viewers the smelt are small, and that they swim upriver from the ocean.

“We gave some of the fish away to elders because the elders taught us how to fish. So we respect them by giving them fish that we caught,” Silas says.

We watch Silas canoeing on a lake with his friends and playing in the Bethel sandpit. He also shares his love of dirt biking and talks about the geographic features of Bethel.

“The Yup’ik word for tundra is nunapik. It’s very squishy and sorta like moss,” Silas says, giving a local language tip.

The segment featuring Silas will be on “Molly of Denali” at least once more on Jan. 29, 2021.