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Marvel Asks “What If…”

A new superhero named Kahhori has the power to change the world in a Marvel TV show that explores alternate histories.

Closeup of the Marvel character Kahhori looking straight on with glowing eyes.

Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Kahhori is Marvel’s new superhero.

Marvel has a new superhero, and she has the power to change the world.

Kahhori (pronounced KAH-HORI), a young Mohawk woman, was introduced in the animated Marvel TV show What If…?, which explores what would happen if certain events had never taken place. Kahhori is living in what’s now New York state in the 1500s when Europeans arrive in the area and attempt to enslave the Indigenous people. By that time, the Mohawk nation had long been part of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, an alliance of five Indigenous nations.

In real life, Europeans eventually colonized large areas of what’s now the United States and took the land where Indigenous people had been living for thousands of years. In the show, however, Kahhori discovers that she has incredible powers that enable her to help the Haudenosaunee fight back and negotiate a peace agreement. The Europeans leave the area without colonizing it, and the Haudenosaunee remain on their land.

“‘What if?’ That’s what I was thinking of,” Agnes “Sweets” Jacobs told North Country Public Radio, after watching a screening of the episode. Jacobs is a sub-chief of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe. “What if we didn’t welcome [the Europeans]?…What if we still lived in peace and harmony and took care of the earth the way we’re supposed to?” 

The episode is notable because Marvel Studios created it in consultation with Mohawk people. Almost all the dialog is in the Mohawk language and voiced by Mohawk actors. Details such as what Kahhori would have worn are accurate.

“[The people at Marvel] were faithful and they were steady and they were completely committed to treating us with the greatest respect,” Doug George-Kanentiio, who is Mohawk and who served as a historical consultant on the show, told North Country Public Radio.

What If…? is available to watch on Disney Plus.

Did You Know?

© Marvel Studios

Most episodes of What If…?, now in its second season, explore alternate stories for established Marvel superheroes. Episode titles include “What If…T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?” and “What If…the Avengers Assembled in 1602?”

What Is the Haudenosaunee Confederacy?

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy flag shows the Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk names linked together.

Courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory

The flag of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy shows the nations linked together.

The Haudenosaunee (sometimes called the Iroquois) Confederacy was formed about the year 1200, when the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk nations unified under a peace agreement. A sixth nation, the Tuscarora, would join the confederacy in the 1700s. Each of these nations has its own language and traditions.

The Confederacy was governed by a body called the Grand Council, which was made up of 50 hoyaneh, or leaders, from the original five nations. The council passed laws only after all the hoyaneh agreed, making it a representative democracy that existed long before the founders of the United States established a similar government. 

Kahhori, the main character in an episode of Marvel’s What If…?, is a Mohawk woman living in the confederacy in the 1500s, when Europeans arrive. The Europeans in the show are from Spain, but in reality the Spanish did not colonize New York. (Spain did colonize other parts of North America—including what are now Mexico, the southwestern United States, and Florida—as it developed a vast empire.) Instead, the Dutch, the French, and the English all explored and settled in New York and interacted with the Haudenosaunee. Both the Dutch and the English would colonize parts of New York—and eventually, as you’ve probably learned, New York became one of the 13 English colonies.

Marvel’s Beginnings

© Josefkubes/Dreamstime.com

Today, Marvel Studios is a powerhouse company that catapults superheroes into superstardom. But Marvel began as a small comic book publisher. Read about its origins at Britannica!

WORD OF THE DAY

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