November 27, 2012

Assassin's Creed 3's Mohawk advisers

A columnist interviews the two Mohawk consultants who helped develop the Mohawk portions of the Assassin's Creed 3 video game. The following may be the most interesting section:

The Awesome Mohawk Teacher and Consultant Behind Ratonhnhaké:ton

By Michael VenablesVenables: What kind of cultural guidelines did you set down for Ubisoft to allow Ratonhnhaké:ton in Assassin’s Creed 3 to appear as a member of the Kanien’kehá:ka in appearance, speech and beliefs? Was this a community process that involved Nation elders in deliberation?

Teiowí:sonte: For the most part, I was able to provide advice independently, drawing from my own knowledge of our history and culture. However, for things I was not completely sure about, I did my research and asked around our community.

Certainly, a big part of why I was recruited was to ensure that Ubisoft did not produce anything that would be considered culturally offensive to our people. That said, ideas were often bounced off of me to ensure that Ubisoft was culturally sensitive and accurate. For example, when some of the writers were thinking about a segment which used ceremonial masks, I immediately advised them not to incorporate something so spiritually private to our people. No doubt, our people would have been quite upset about something like that in the game and probably would have presented a stern opposition against the game.

To their credit, Ubisoft went above and beyond to ensure that the rich and distinct culture of the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) Nation was accurately portrayed in the final product, to the best of their ability.

Venables: Do you have any further thoughts on your contribution to helping the Kanien’kehá:ka Mohawk Nation share its culture with the world, in a video game?

I believe that having a Kanien’kehá:ka protagonist appear in a such a popular game franchise such as Assassin’s Creed 3, makes our nation relevant again to people who might think we are but a shadow of the past. It puts us on the map again and makes our culture accessible.

There are a lot of unfortunate stereotypes or unfounded romanticisms about Native Americans in contemporary society and popular culture today, including racial ignorance. I believe most people in the world today amalgamate the vast and distinct cultures of each indigenous nation into a sort of pan-Indian cliché, which does a big disservice to these cultures who work hard to protect and strengthen their distinct identity as a sovereign people against tough odds.

Assassin’s Creed 3 takes the time to give its audience an accurate glimpse into Kanien’kehá:ka culture, by incorporating our true language, our songs, and our historical experience during an era that depended greatly upon Native American alliances. This accessibility may inspire someone to learn more about the various Native American cultures in North America and their contributions to the world today. For example, most people just don’t know how much of a significant role the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) and other Iroquoian peoples played in the American Revolution and the geopolitical landscape we live in today.

Whether they learn something as simple as how not all Native Americans lived in tepees, or something more significant such as how the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) constitution inspired the creation of the US Constitution; it would be worth it.
Comment:  For more on Assassin's Creed 3, see Noah Watts as Mohawk Assassin and Assassin's Creed 3 Misrepresents History.

Below:  "Assassin's Creed 3 concept art." (Ubisoft Entertainment)

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