Native, Indigenous, and First Nations Marvel Super Heroes
Earlier this year, Marvel released Marvel’s Voices: Heritage #1, a collection of stories celebrating Native, Indigenous, and First Nations heroes. Classic X-Men heroes like Dani Moonstar, Forge, John Greycrow, Risque, and Warpath opened up the book, followed by stories featuring Echo (and her new ally River), Snowguard, American Eagle, and the newest Werewolf by Night, a Hopi boy named Jake Gomez.
In November 2020, Marvel also published Marvel’s Voices: Indigenous Voices #1 and in August 2021, Joe Gomez (Chiitaska) of the Kickapoo Tribe appeared in United States of Captain America #3. Next year, Echo’s solo MCU series will premiere and Namor has now received a Mesoamerican update in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Back in the comics, Dani, Forge, and John Greycrow are leading their respective mutant teams in the ongoing fight for Krakoa.
When the heroes we love are given a wider variety of identities and experiences, audiences have a greater chance for connection. That’s why representation is such a vital tool in the creative process. Let’s take a look at Marvel super heroes who are Native, First Nations, and/or Indigenous.
Maya Lopez made her screen debut (played by Alaqua Cox) in Hawkeye. In 2023, she will also have her own MCU solo series, Echo. She is a member of the Cheyenne Nation and, as Echo, Maya uses her photographic reflexes to mimic anything she sees — making her a formidable fighter. When her father was killed by his business associate, Kingpin, he left a bloody handprint across Maya’s face. She wears this handprint throughout her tenure as a hero, and it can also be seen as a powerful symbol of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people.
Maya has been closely affiliated with Daredevil, she’s defeated Madame Hydra, and with the Avengers she once operated as Ronin — a guise Clint Barton also has shared. As an Avenger, she also participated in the Phoenix Force’s tournament to choose a new host. Maya became the newest Phoenix, calling herself Thunderbird, because her powers of mimicry make her potential as a hero nearly limitless.
This year, Maya had her own solo comic series called Phoenix Song: Echo, written by Rebecca Roanhorse and drawn by Luca Maresca. In the series, Maya meets a new friend, River, who helps her reconnect with her past and defeat the demonic Adversary.
John Proudstar of the Apaches is a legendary figure in the history of the X-Men. He was part of the second wave of X-Men (under the name Thunderbird) in 1975 that also brought in Storm, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Sunfire, and Banshee. Thunderbird’s mutant powers included super strength, stamina, and durability. However, true to his name, John’s tragic flaw was pride. He wanted more than anything to honor the legacy of the Apache warriors before him.
As a result, at the end of a mission he sought to take down an escaping enemy and caused his own death in an airplane explosion. His death was a turning point for the young mutant team and the memory of Thunderbird would continue to live on. Recently, John has been resurrected on Krakoa, as seen in Giant-Size X-Men: Thunderbird. With a new costume, John returns home to the rez, stops a corrupt organization from stealing Natives’ DNA, and reunites with his younger brother, Warpath.
As it turns out, James Proudstar, John’s younger brother, would also develop similar mutant powers. Holding Charles Xavier and the X-Men responsible for his brother’s death, James joined Emma Frost’s Hellions and soon became a frequent opponent of the New Mutants. Over time, he grew connected to Dani Moonstar and decided to leave the Hellions after accepting his brother’s death. In retaliation, they massacred everyone on his Apache reservation.
James accepted Cable’s offer to join X-Force and he took on the name Warpath. As Warpath, he would fight alongside the X-Men and the Weapon X mutant rescue team. His powers even expanded to include flight, acute tracking senses, a healing factor, and Apache shaman abilities. Currently, James is working as a mentor to the younger New Mutants on Krakoa.
Danielle Moonstar, a mutant from the Cheyenne Nation, has truly grown into a capable and talented leader even though her beginnings were full of turmoil. Dani can tap into the fear of those around her and manifest those fears into horrifying images. This originally caused her to be ostracized from her community, especially after her parents’ disappearance. After her grandfather’s death, Dani reluctantly honored his wish for her to join Xavier’s mutants.
With the New Mutants, Dani learned to control her powers and even expand them to tap into people’s subconscious desires. Dani adopted the name Mirage and she also learned to focus her psionic energy into arrows as well as developing a semi-telepathic connection with most animals. Dani has also wielded the power of the Valkyries after bonding with Brightwind, a winged horse. Today, Dani is a leader of the New Mutants team as they conquer intergalactic threats and oversee the education of Krakoa’s younger mutants.
Risque is another Native mutant with ties to the New Mutants team. Born Gloria Dolores Muñoz to a Seminole mother and a Cuban father, Risque has often been an outsider. Her mutation is gravity manipulation, meaning she can compress inorganic matter and produce concussive blasts with localized force fields. Early on, she owed a debt to a dubious man named Sledge. To repay him for getting her out of trouble, Risque had a mission: Seduce Warpath and lead him astray.
Over time, she and Warpath fell in love. When Sledge sent Blob and Mimic to remind her of her mission, Warpath felt betrayed. Eventually they reconciled when she joined X-Force and assisted Dani Moonstar in defeating a second Demon Bear. Later she worked for X-Corp alongside Domino but she was killed by human extremists called U-Men. Currently, Risque has reappeared on Krakoa and was recruited by Abigail Brand’s S.W.O.R.D.
This team of Canadian operatives has always included First Nations heroes among its members. Alpha Flight is a group that is organized by the Canadian government into three tiers: Gamma, Beta, and Alpha. One of its original members, Snowbird, is the daughter of a mortal man and the Inuit goddess of the Northern Lights. Snowbird is able to transform into any Arctic animal and use that creature’s skills as well as heal herself and fly. She was raised by a Tsuut’ina Nation surgeon named Michael Twoyoungmen (coincidentally, he also helped Snowbird’s mother give birth).
Together, they were recruited onto Alpha Flight. As Shaman, Michael is well versed in a wide range of nature-based sorcery. His formerly estranged daughter, Elizabeth Twoyoungmen, takes up the name Talisman on Alpha Flight. She can communicate with spirits and, when wearing the Coronet of Enchantment, she has access to impressive magical and mystical abilities.
Amka Aliyak is a young Inuit girl from Pangnirtung, a village in Nunavut, Canada. When she decided to investigate a glacier repair facility in Pang, Amka found her calling as a hero. It turned out the facility was created by the Master of the World, an archnemesis of Canada’s Alpha Flight team.
Once she infiltrated the facility, Amka freed a captive Inua spirit, Sila, whose power is the life force of all living things. Sila imbued Amka with some of this power and Amka joined the Champions as Snowguard. Thanks to Sila, Snowguard has beautiful wings and possesses magic and shape-shifting abilities. The name Snowguard is an homage to two Alpha Flight heroes, Guardian and Snowbird. In Marvel’s Voices: Heritage, Snowguard saves her village from sea witches called Qalupalik by tapping into her shamanistic heritage to call upon the Tuurngait.
A member of the Blackfeet Nation, Silver Fox met Logan before he became Wolverine. She had been recently widowed when she became involved with Logan. They lived happily together for a time in their home in the Canadian Rockies, close to the town of Mount Logan, Yukon. Unfortunately, Victor Creed, AKA Sabretooth, soon entered their lives and from there Silver Fox would continue to encounter heartbreak.
After being left for dead, she became part of the Weapon X program alongside Wolverine and Sabretooth. Eventually, she defected to become a terrorist for Hydra and later, the Hand, with whom she ordered Logan’s lover, Mariko Yashida, to be poisoned. She would eventually take down the Weapon X Program but, sadly, she was murdered by Sabretooth. Wolverine buried her near their former mountain home.
Jason Strongbow was a Navajo man who helped lead the Navajo Nation against the excavation of a sacred mountain, first through court and then with peaceful protest. When the peaceful protest took a wrong turn and Ulysses Klaw revealed himself to be behind the excavation, Jason and his brother Ward were exposed to Klaw’s sonic blasts as well as an unknown isotope of uranium.
As a result, Jason gained superhuman physiology and senses, and he decided to become American Eagle, in honor of the namesake guardian of the skies. Ward followed Klaw to the Savage Land where he would eventually be killed in an attempted rescue mission. American Eagle was active during Civil War as well as more recently with the contest to become the Phoenix Force’s host. In Marvel’s Voices: Heritage, American Eagle’s story is a thought-provoking look at what happens when a hero ages.
Wyatt Wingfoot, a member of the Marvel universe’s Keewazi tribe, has proven again and again to be both brave and trustworthy. Despite not having any mutant or superhuman abilities, Wyatt does descend from the valiant warriors of the Comanche Nation. Wyatt is also a steadfast friend and valuable ally to the Fantastic Four.
In college, he and Johnny Storm were roommates and quickly became best friends. Wyatt accompanied Johnny and the rest of the Fantastic Four on a mission to Wakanda, unexpectedly helping their success, before embarking on a wild voyage chasing down the Inhuman dog Lockjaw with Johnny. When they returned, Wyatt grew close with She-Hulk and over the years they have joined each other on many adventures as well as shared an enduring romance.
Forge has gone through many affiliations over the course of his life. He is a mutant from the Cheyenne Nation and was trained in the mystical arts by a shaman of his tribe. However, after serving in the Vietnam War, he stopped using these abilities and began working for the government to develop weapons in Tony Stark’s place. Forge’s other notable ability is his mutation. As a technopath, he can perceive the mechanic energy of technology and intuitively understand it to create impressive technology of his own.
With this ability, he created devices capable of detecting mutant and extraterrestrial powers as well as neutralizing them. This invention brought him into contact with the X-Men and Forge would soon enter a tumultuous relationship with Storm. Later, he joined and led X-Factor, as well as becoming close with Mystique and reclaiming his mystical potential. Forge has recently been reinstated as a member of the X-Men on Krakoa.
Though there’s undeniable darkness in his past, John Greycrow’s story is filled with pain. Greycrow is from the Comanche tribe and like Forge, is a technopathic mutant. He fought in WWII but was executed after killing his fellow soldiers. Due to a secondary regenerative mutation, Greycrow survived and Mister Sinister enlisted him as a frequent collaborator.
Greycrow, along with Gambit and Sabretooth, was part of Sinister’s Marauders who massacred the Morlocks. During this time, Greycrow was known as Scalphunter. On a mission for Sinister during the Inferno event, Greycrow was killed and replaced by a clone. He also nearly killed Nightcrawler — though the teleporting mutant would later grant Greycrow forgiveness.
After continuing to work for Sinister and then hiding from the X-Men, Greycrow was welcomed to Krakoa. Along with Havok, Kwannon (separated from Betsy Braddock and now operating as Psylocke), and others, Greycrow was a member of Mister Sinister’s semi-reformed team called the Hellions. Greycrow and Psylocke have also engaged in a romantic relationship, having reconciled their violent pasts with the future’s possibility.
Kushala, like so many others, first came into her great power through the worst agony and heartbreak. In the 19th century, her Apache tribe was attacked by the U.S. Army and her parents were killed. Overcome by her rage, she called out and was heard by a spirit of vengeance, and soon she bonded to the demon force. Though she now possesses abilities similar to Ghost Rider, Kushala seeks to release herself from the spirit by studying as many forms of magic and sorcery as she can find. In her era, she even became the Sorcerer Supreme.
She continues to roam the world as Demon Rider, even aiding Ghost Rider on a journey of his own to reclaim his imperiled soul. Recently, she was recruited by Doctor Strange. Kushala’s immense power, and the wide range of sources from which she draws that power, makes her a leading candidate to become Sorcerer Supreme once again.
In a world where systems are slow to change, the victory of representation can feel like a hard-won battle. When our identities and experiences are reflected on the big screens or across the inked panels, our stories grow stronger and so do we. Here’s to more representation.
Which Native, Indigenous, or First Nations hero stands out to you? Who did we miss? Connect with other Marvel fans in our Local Comics Society Facebook Group, and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!