The latest episode of Marvel‘s What If…? on Disney+ is a special one. Not only does it introduce a brand new character into the MCU, Kahhori (voiced by Devery Jacobs), but it also is a landmark collaboration with the Mohawk Nation to make sure they got the episode just right… Something that garners its own special thanks card after the main credits of the episode.
A little bit of background here, first. What If…? Season 2, Episode 6, “What If…Kahhori Reshaped The World?” focuses on a young Indigenous woman named Kahhori living in the Akwesasne region, what is now known as Upstate New York. She’s a member of the Mohawk Nation, which itself is one-fifth of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Over the course of the episode, she tangles with Conquistadors who shoot her. She also falls into a lake imbued by a piece of the Tesseract, aka the Infinity Stone known as the Space Stone.
From there, she travels to a land the people call Sky World, where she discovers incredible powers: super-speed, the ability to manipulate objects through space, and the ability to manipulate and create portals. She uses these powers along with the other residents of Sky World to fight back against the Conquistadors… And by the episode’s end, she’s even turned the balance of power against Queen Isabella of Spain. The age of exploration (really, conquering, let’s be honest) is over; the Age of Kahhori has begun. Or it would if Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) didn’t show up to muck things up.
The majority of the episode is in the Mohawk language and Spanish. And according to Marvel the What If…? team tried to be as authentic as possible. Hence the thanks card at the end:
The card reads: “Marvel Studios would like to extend our deep gratitude to the citizens of the Kanien’kehá:Ka – the Mohawk Nation who collaborated on this episode.”
So how did the Mohawk Nation collaborate on the episode?
How The Mohawk Nation Collaborated With Marvel On What If…?
Given Marvel Comics’ dicey history with Indigenous characters, it’s clear the studio was overly and appropriately careful when approaching the character of Kahhori. The episode was written by Ryan Little, and directed by Bryan Andrews, neither of whom are of Indigenous descent. So instead, they went directly to the Mohawk Nation for help. Specifically, Mohawk Nation members historian Doug George and language expert Cecelia King.
Executive Producer A.C. Bradley, Story Editor Matthew Chauncey, and the rest of the production team also — according to Marvel — worked closely with other members of the Mohawk Nation to design the look of both Kahhori and the world as a whole, as well as the music for the episode.
“I had a wonderful writing mentor who worked extensively with the Indigenous community in upstate New York, and I was excited to draw on that experience to build an entirely original corner of the MCU with storylines for new Indigenous heroes written from a place of respect for past generations and optimism for future ones,” said Little in the initial announcement of the character on Marvel.com. “Kahhori, pronounced ‘KAH-HORTI,’ is a real, Wolf Clan name, meaning ‘she stirs the forest’ or is someone who motivates those around her. In her debut adventure, Kahhori will have to live up to her name to recruit powerful allies into the fight to save her people and change the course of history forever.”
Additionally, cast members like Devery Jacobs, Kiawentiio and more are all members of the Mohawk Nation. So there you go! Now you know how Marvel worked with the Mohawk Nation to make this episode. Good job, you.