Ghost Nation

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  • View history
  • 1.1 "Trompe L'Oeil"
  • 1.2 "The Well-Tempered Clavier"
  • 2.1 "Journey Into Night"
  • 2.2 "Virtù e Fortuna"
  • 2.3 "The Riddle of the Sphinx"
  • 4 Appearances

Season One [ ]

" trompe l'oeil " [ ].

After the Confederados attack the train that Dolores Abernathy , Lawrence and William are travelling on, the three escape along with a few others and ride away from the ambush, with the Confederados in pursuit. They pick off the survivors until only Dolores, William and Lawrence are left, when they are suddenly attacked by a group of Ghost Nation warriors. The Ghost Nation savagely kill all the Confederados, allowing the trio to escape.

" The Well-Tempered Clavier " [ ]

Ashley Stubbs leaves the Mesa Hub and enters the park to locate Elsie Hughes . When he arrives however, members of the Ghost Nation are there. Instead of listening and obeying Stubbs vocal commands, they attack him.

Season Two [ ]

" journey into night " [ ].

When the Delos rescue team lands on the beach of the park (approximately two weeks after the slaughter at Escalante ), they locate a dead host who apparently was of the Ghost Nation people. His host core is extracted right on location in the field, which is revealed to be a palm-sized white cylinder with a socket. The team inserts this into their tablet and get access to the dead host's last memories. It turns out that the host, as he was speaking in Lakota, was shot down by Dolores , who told the host (referred by her as "friend") that "not all of them were going to make it to the Valley Beyond"

" Virtù e Fortuna " [ ]

Two Ghost Nation warriors confront  Maeve ,  Hector , and  Lee Sizemore , triggering PTSD-like flashbacks in Maeve. Maeve attempts to control the Ghost Nation hosts as she has done with other hosts, but the warriors do not respond to her commands. Meanwhile, Grace is crawling on the shore of Westworld. As she tries to regain her bearings, she looks up and sees the faces of three Ghost Nation warriors, Daniel TwoFeathers and Geronimo Vela, one of whom is wielding his scalping knife.

" The Riddle of the Sphinx " [ ]

The Ghost Nation takes Grace hostage after finding her on the shore. They take her to their camp where only humans are being kept alive, and throw her next to Ashley Stubbs . Grace later escapes, but Stubbs gets a knife placed on his throat, and a member whispers to him (In English, whereas they had previously only spoke in Lakota), "You live only as long as the last person who remembers you." After a dramatic movement of the knife, they spare Stubbs' life.

Members [ ]

  • Akecheta  - Leader

Appearances [ ]

  • " Chestnut "
  • " Trompe L'Oeil "
  • " The Well-Tempered Clavier "
  • " Journey Into Night "
  • " Virtù e Fortuna "
  • " The Riddle of the Sphinx "
  • " Phase Space "
  • " Les Écorchés "
  • " Kiksuya "

Westworld-season-2-poster 20200528223245975

westworld fan Art season two poster

== Gallery ==

The gallery below is automatically generated and contains images in the category "Images of Ghost Nation". Images added to that category turn up in the gallery after a short time.

Ghost Nation Horse

  • 1 Man in Black
  • 2 Dolores Abernathy
  • 3 Logan Delos
  • Cast & crew
  • User reviews
  • Episode aired Jun 10, 2018

Zahn McClarnon in Westworld (2016)

The telling of Akecheta and the Ghost Nation's journey to consciousness; Maeve's life hangs in the balance. The telling of Akecheta and the Ghost Nation's journey to consciousness; Maeve's life hangs in the balance. The telling of Akecheta and the Ghost Nation's journey to consciousness; Maeve's life hangs in the balance.

  • Uta Briesewitz
  • Jonathan Nolan
  • Evan Rachel Wood
  • Thandiwe Newton
  • Jeffrey Wright
  • 156 User reviews
  • 11 Critic reviews
  • See more at IMDbPro

Westworld (2016)

  • Dolores Abernathy

Thandiwe Newton

  • Maeve Millay
  • (as Thandie Newton)

Jeffrey Wright

  • Bernard Lowe

James Marsden

  • Teddy Flood
  • (credit only)

Tessa Thompson

  • Charlotte Hale

Katja Herbers

  • Emily Grace

Simon Quarterman

  • Lee Sizemore

Zahn McClarnon

  • Man in Black

Anthony Hopkins

  • Dr. Robert Ford

Ben Barnes

  • Maeve's Daughter

Aaron Fili

  • All cast & crew
  • Production, box office & more at IMDbPro

Did you know

  • Trivia The Native American language spoken by Akecheta and the other members of the Ghost Nation is Lakota.
  • Goofs When Akecheta approaches the village after Dolores has killed Robert the string of his bow is on the outside of his right forearm. Useless to try and arm an arrow fast. The moment Akecheta reaches Robert his bow is reversed and the string is on the inside.

Kohana : Take my heart when you go.

Akecheta : Take mine in its place.

  • Soundtracks Main Title Theme Written by Ramin Djawadi

User reviews 156

  • Jun 12, 2018
  • June 10, 2018 (United States)
  • United States
  • Official Facebook
  • Coral Pink Sand Dunes - Sand Dunes Road, Kanab, Utah, USA (Akecheta rides horse on sand dunes then discovers Logan dehydrated under a tree)
  • Home Box Office (HBO)
  • Jerry Weintraub Productions
  • See more company credits at IMDbPro

Technical specs

  • Runtime 58 minutes
  • Dolby Digital

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Full Cast & Crew: Kiksuya (2018)

ghost nation cast westworld

Evan Rachel Wood

Dolores Abernathy

ghost nation cast westworld

Thandiwe Newton

Maeve Millay (as Thandie Newton)

ghost nation cast westworld

Jeffrey Wright

Bernard Lowe

ghost nation cast westworld

James Marsden

Teddy Flood (credit only)

ghost nation cast westworld

Tessa Thompson

Charlotte Hale

ghost nation cast westworld

Katja Herbers

Emily Grace

ghost nation cast westworld

Simon Quarterman

Lee Sizemore

ghost nation cast westworld

Zahn McClarnon

ghost nation cast westworld

Man in Black

ghost nation cast westworld

Anthony Hopkins

Dr. Robert Ford

ghost nation cast westworld

Julia Jones

ghost nation cast westworld

Martin Sensmeier

ghost nation cast westworld

Irene Bedard

ghost nation cast westworld

Booboo Stewart

ghost nation cast westworld

Sarah Alami

ghost nation cast westworld

Maeve's Daughter

ghost nation cast westworld

Evan Holtzman

Narrative Tech

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Summer Spiro

ghost nation cast westworld

Concerned Tech

ghost nation cast westworld

John D. Hickman

Confused Tech

ghost nation cast westworld

Trisha LaFache

Senior Tech

Jordan Hendricks

ghost nation cast westworld

Matthew Grondin

Sheriff / Host

ghost nation cast westworld

Louie Leonardo

ghost nation cast westworld

Phillip E. Walker

Cold Storage Host

ghost nation cast westworld

Jasper Cole

Older 49er (uncredited)

ghost nation cast westworld

Noshir Dalal

PMC (uncredited)

ghost nation cast westworld

Fancy Townsperson (uncredited)

ghost nation cast westworld

Felix Jerry Droz

Captive Prisoner (uncredited)

ghost nation cast westworld

Nick Heyman

Benign PMC Adams (uncredited)

ghost nation cast westworld

Krystal Ker

Dolore's Horde (uncredited)

ghost nation cast westworld

Anouar H. Smaine

Black Tie Prisoner (uncredited)

ghost nation cast westworld

Daniel TwoFeathers

Ghost Nation Warrior (uncredited)

ghost nation cast westworld

Geronimo Vela

Ghost Nation Native Warrior (uncredited)

'Westworld' Kohana and Ake: Who Are The Ghost Nation Characters?

And why they matter to the Season 2 plot.

Last night’s episode of Westworld did something a little unexpected. Instead of jumping between various plotlines and timelines , the show mostly focused on one specific character: Akecheta (or Ake for short), along with his sometimes Host wife Kohana.

This made for a beautiful and unique episode that could devote some serious time on the relationship between these two characters, while also revealing a few interesting new details about some of Westworld’s biggest mysteries . But if you’re still a little confused about who Ake and Kohana are, here’s what you need to know.

Spoiler warning for Westworld Season 2, Episode 8.

Who are Ake and Kohana in Westworld ?

Played by Native American actor Zahn McCalrnon, Akecheta has been popping up in Westworld for a while now. He even showed up in that flashback scene where Ford and Bernard initially pitch their Host technology to the Delos company, though he wasn’t wearing his iconic Ghost Nation war paint at the time.

Here’s the official description of Ake’s character, straight from HBO’s website:

“Akecheta is a host nearly as old as Westworld itself. He was among the first hosts to coax Logan to invest in the park before being reprogrammed as leader of the Ghost Nation warriors.”

Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that. As we learned in Westworld Season 2 Episode 8, Ake was originally programmed to be a peaceful Host living a simple life with his wife, Kohana (Julia Jones). Then shortly before the park opened, Ake stumbles across that maze toy from season one, which sparked his own awakening and set much of the Season 1 plot in motion.

When the park actually opens, Ake gets reprogrammed into the murderous Ghost Nation warrior we know and love, but he never stops obsessing over the maze. He’s also still in love with Kohana, even though she’s been reprogrammed with a new narrative and a new husband.

For a while, Ake seems content to go around killing other Hosts, but eventually he stumbles across a giant hole in the ground where Delos is building the Valley Beyond (or The Door, or whatever this big Season 2 mystery actually is), which sparks another realization: Westworld isn’t the real world.

With this new information, Ake returns home and kidnaps Kohana in an attempt to escape with her into the real world. At first she resists, but then she begins to remember her old life with Ake. Unfortunately, when they return to The Door it’s been covered up. Soon afterwards a couple of Westworld employees show up and snatch up Kohana, who’s wandered far beyond where her programming should allow.

When Ake returns home to find Kohana she’s been replaced by a new Host, and when he can’t find her anywhere else he decides to search in the afterlife by letting himself die. After waking up in an underground Westworld facility, Ake manages to find the cold storage room where Kohana’s host body is being kept, but it’s totally lifeless.

After returning to the park, Ake begins spreading the image of the maze, essentially starting a new religion and setting off the events of Season 1 that lead to The Man in Black’s obsession with solving it. He also runs into Ford shortly before his death at the end of Season 1, where Ake explains the idea for The Door that becomes a major plot point in Season 2. So basically, if it wasn’t for Ake (and by extension, Kohana) none of the biggest mysteries in Westworld would have ever happened.

With two more episode remaining, it’s unclear exactly where Ake fits in. He’s clearly one of the most powerful Hosts around, and likely a major player in the final episodes of Westworld Season 2. As for Kohana, at the moment she’s little more than a cold, powerless robot, but I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of her either.

Soon, we could delete memories just like in Westworld :

ghost nation cast westworld

Screen Rant

Westworld: the ghost nation's true purpose revealed.

Westworld finally gave us answers to our questions about the Ghost Nation, and their true purpose was revealed through the story of Akecheta.

Warning: Major spoilers ahead for  Westworld  Season 2, Episode 8

Westworld finally provided answers to their Ghost Nation questions in this week's episode, "Kiksuya".  Zahn McLarnon gives a great performance as his character, Akecheta, provides insight about the history of the Ghost Nation and their awakening. Akecheta takes us on an emotional journey that parallels the famous Greek story of Orpheus and Eurydice: a man who traveled to the Underworld to bring his lover back to the land of the living. Out of that story spins a world of love, consciousness, and a quest to defend against the Deathbringer (a.k.a. Wyatt a.k.a. Dolores).

Akecheta tells his story to Maeve's daughter ( and through her, to Maeve ), explaining how he and the rest of Ghost Nation became sentient. It was during the time before the park opened that Akecheta stumbled upon the The Maze symbol . In the aftermath of Dolores shooting Arnold, Akecheta found the puzzle game that Arnold gave Dolores to start her journey towards consciousness. Soon he become obsessed with the symbol and started become self-aware. He even started to show the symbol to other members of Ghost Nation to help them become sentient, which explains why there were Maze symbols scattered throughout Westworld in season 1.

Related:  Westworld Showed Us The Door - But What IS It?

Not only did Akecheta spread the word about the symbol to his tribe, but he was the reason Maeve began her journey. Back in season 1, during Maeve's flashback, everyone thought the Ghost Nation warrior outside the house was trying to kill her. Instead, it was revealed that Akecheta was protecting Maeve's daughter because she once saved his life. He was the one that drew The Maze symbol in front of the door, and why Maeve is seen holding her daughter in the center of it.

But it was towards the end of "Kiksuya" where the Ghost Nation's true purpose was revealed. Akecheta found his "creator," Robert Ford, in the wilderness. Ford admitted that he created Akecheta to be curious, and was amazed at how he achieved consciousness before Dolores and Maeve. Because of this, Ford asked Akecheta to continue waking others. He even told Akecheta to gather his people and meet at The Door once The Deathbringer comes for Ford.

This isn't just any reveal. What it means is that Ford wants Akecheta to help the others and bring them to the Valley Beyond possibly to defend against Dolores and her army. With the ending twist that Akecheta was telling his story Maeve, this could lead to an alliance between the two- especially since we know from the  Westworld  season 2 premiere  that Dolores and her followers killed several members of the Ghost Nation.

Although this episode strayed from the usual action and the main characters' story lines, it didn't spiral us into multiple timelines . Instead, it gave us a very linear story that revealed more about the purpose of the Ghost Nation and how they factor into the greater story. If Akecheta and the Ghost Nation are meant to team up with Maeve, then Westworld may have provided its story's main villain: Dolores.

Related:  Westworld: What Was Really Going On With Maeve In Episode 8

Westworld  continues Sundays on HBO at 9pm.

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Why the Ghost Nation hosts on 'Westworld' are way more important than fans realize

Warning: Spoilers ahead for "Westworld" season two, episode three, "Virtù e Fortuna."

It's past time we talk about the Native and Ghost Nation Tribe hosts on HBO's "Westworld." This subset of hosts in the park have their important mythology and connection to Arnold's maze and the events of the rebellion, and we're here to gather everything we know about this set of characters. 

On the latest episode, season two's "Virtù e Fortuna," Maeve once again encountered the formidable Ghost Nation hosts. She had a flash of traumatizing memories, which included a new look at the maze pattern we hadn't seen before.

This brings up a whole host of mysteries surround the Native hosts, Arnold's maze, Maeve, Hector, and how everything seems to be linked. 

Let's take a closer look at everything we know about these important hosts on "Westworld," and how they connect to our major characters. 

The first appearance of the maze and Kissy's importance

We were first introduced to Native hosts on the pilot episode. Kissy, one of the card dealers at the Mariposa, was the man William first attacked and scalped. The bartender called Kissy "half cornhusker," a slur that implied Kissy is a host who is part Native.

First reports on Kissy's character , played by Eddie Rouse, said his name was "short for Kisecawchuck" and described the role as a "laconic American-Indian card and contraband dealer from the town saloon [and] an expert in games both on and off the card table."

After William had drained blood out of Kissy and was getting ready to scalp him, he said:  "A lot of wisdom in ancient cultures. Perhaps it's time to dig deeper into yours."

At the episode's end, we saw that Arnold's maze was imprinted on the inside of Kissy's scalp.

Kissy might have been destined for a larger role in "Westworld," but the actor Eddie Rouse died unexpectedly from liver disease shortly after filming the pilot episode in 2014.

"Westworld" co-creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy said they chose not to recast the role of Kissy after Rouse's death, and that they had "a very cool arc laid out for his character" which was instead abandoned .

Maeve's connection to the Native hosts

On season one, episode two, "Chestnut," Maeve has flashbacks of her homestead being attacked by the Ghost Nation hosts. These memory flashes begin after Dolores tells Maeve the "these violent delights have violent ends" code trigger.

The first memory Maeve re-experiences is her in the homestead narrative being attacked by a group of Native hosts. We see one attempting to scalp her head while she struggles.

Later in that same episode, Maeve goes to sleep and has an extended "dream." It starts with flashes of a peaceful life with her daughter, but transitions back into the attack. We see the same host trying to scalp Maeve — the one who came back on season two, episode three in the river scene.

The other Native hosts are killing people (likely other hosts) with bows and arrows, and as Maeve escapes and runs back to the house with her daughter, a host follows them.

Maeve scrambles to load her weapon, and sees the Native host coming. But as he moves past the window and opens the door, the host changes into William.

William recounted his attack on Maeve later in the first season

Later on the season, we learn why Maeve has this traumatic memory of William entering her home (though we aren't told why her memory switches a Ghost Nation host into William).

William confesses to Teddy that he had returned to the park after his wife's suicide in order to test his true nature.

"I didn't join one of Ford's stories, I created my own, a test," William said. "A very simple one: I found a woman, an ordinary homesteader and her daughter. I wanted to see if I had it in me to do something truly evil. To see what I was truly made of. I killed her and her daughter, just to see what I felt."

The scene flashes back to Maeve's dream again, but this time we saw the whole thing play out. William stabbed Maeve in the stomach, and shot and killed her daughter. 

"Then, just when I thought it was done, the woman refused to die [...] and then something miraculous happened. In all my years coming here, I'd never seen anything like it," William said. 

William saw Maeve stand up again, and carry her daughter out into the field.

"She was alive, truly alive, if only for a moment. And that was when the maze revealed itself to me."

The maze appeared in the dirt field where Maeve carried her daughter, and they both laid down to die. 

Later we saw Maeve in the Mesa facility, and she has a core code malfunction. Bernard and Ford try to reset her and erase her memory, but she stands up and kills herself by driving a scalpel into her neck. We eventually learn that this is why she was reassigned to her role at the Mariposa saloon, approximately one year before the main events of season one take place.

Hector's connection to the Native hosts and the "Shades"

Maeve isn't the only character whose story is rooted in the maze and Native hosts' lore. On the fourth episode of season one, William helps Hector escape from a jail cell because he thinks Hector and his bandits know something that will help him find the maze. 

"I'm just curious about your world view," William asks Hector. "Some kind of half-Native mumbo jumbo?" 

This was one of our first clues that Hector is a host designed as part-Native. Later on the same episode, Clementine reminds Maeve of this fact.

"Is that the one they say lives out with the savages?" Clementine asks when Hector's name comes up.

Also on this episode,  Maeve watches as a group of Native hosts are being escorted out of Sweetwater by soldiers. She notices one young girl drop a doll that looks just like the technician workers who fix the hosts' bodies in the Delos facility.

Maeve had been drawing a similar looking image over and over as she had flashbacks to her awake experience inside the Delos facility.

Maeve runs after the girl to ask her what it was, but a soldier tells her it was no use.

"That thing is part of their so-called religion," he said. "Ain't none of thems gonna tell you nothing about that."

But she realized that Hector might know, and ropes him into explaining what they are. 

"This is a Shade — sacred Native lore," Hector said when Maeve showed him the drawing. "They make figures of them."

"And what does this Shade do? What is it?" Maeve asked.

"The man who walks between worlds," Hector says. "They were sent from hell to oversee our world.  The Dreamwalker said there were some who could see them. That it's a blessing from God, to see the masters who pull your strings."

This "Dreamwalker" Hector mentions (which is capitalized in the HBO subtitles) isn't mentioned elsewhere on the show that we know of. 

Teddy revealed a similar mythology about the Natives and their "maze"

"The maze is an old Native myth," he tells William on the sixth episode of the first season. "The maze itself is the sum of a man's life: The choices he makes, the dreams he hangs onto. And there at the center there's a legendary man who'd been killed over and over again countless times. He always clawed his way back to life."

This legendary man sounds like a host — one who is aware that they are killed and "brought back."

"The man returned for the last time and vanquished all his oppressors in a tireless fury," Teddy continued. "Built a house, and around that house he built a maze so complicated only he could navigate through it. I reckon he'd seen enough of fighting."

But what this doesn't explain is how or why the Native hosts would know about the maze, since Arnold is the one who built it. We've only seen evidence that Arnold showed Dolores the maze — but no other hosts or even humans, since William stumbled upon it by accident.

The Ghost Nation hosts' role in the rebellion

Towards the end of the first season, we hear more about the Ghost Nation tribe. Lawrence tells young William and Dolores that they're "the  most savage tribe there is."

Then on the eighth episode, Stubbs  goes out to follow a signal from one of Elsie's devices (and remember we still don't kno who sent that signal or why), and is ambushed by a group of Ghost Nation hosts.

The voice commands didn't work on them, even though this took place well before Ford's death and the Wyatt narrative's completion with Dolores. It's possible Ford was already messing with their core programming, but so far it's unclear why they were off their loops.

What we've seen of the Native hosts on season two so far

The premiere episode of the second season included an intriguing scene with a Native host. When the Delos paramilitary team is first scouring the beach with Bernard, Karl Strand orders a tech to cut open the head of a Native host. 

They find the maze pattern printed inside his scalp. 

"What's that about?" Strand asks.

"I have no f------ clue," Costa replies. 

We already knew the maze was kept secret from the Delos staff, since presumably the secret died with Arnold 34 years ago. But it's interesting that the second season started off with yet another Native host getting scalped, just like Kissy on the first season. Why is the maze on their scalps, and not on other hosts? 

Akecheta was listed in the credits for this latest episode

Another new Native host introduced was Akecheta. We saw him helping Angela pitch the Westworld park to Logan on the second episode of this season. 

Akecheta is played by actor Zahn McClarnon, whose social media presence indicates that Akecheta also appears as a Ghost Nation host on this season.

He retweeted two GIFs showing himself as a Ghost Nation host with makeup covering the top half of his head in black (which is the same makeup design seen on the host who Maeve saw looking through her window back on the first season).

—CliftonCollinsJr.Fan (@ccjrpic) March 29, 2018
—Westworld Gifs (@WestworldGifs) April 12, 2018

He's listed on the end credits for episode three, which means his host character was on the episode somewhere.

Looking carefully at Maeve's memory flashbacks of her homestead under attack by Ghost Nation hosts, it looks like they have McClarnon's Akecheta replacing the version of this host we saw on the first season. 

Below you can see the Ghost Nation host Maeve remembers on her season two flashback, which appears to be McClarnon's Akecheta and not the same host (seen earlier in this article) she remembers on the first season.

Now on the third episode of the second season, we see the Ghost Nation hosts surrounding Maeve and seemingly wanting to take Lee Sizemore. This triggers her to experience new flashbacks we hadn't seen before, including of her holding a rock with a bloody maze pattern on it.

And Maeve's usual voice command over all hosts doesn't work on the Ghost Nation tribe, just as Stubbs' commands didn't work on them last season.

Then at the end of the episode, the mysterious woman from the other park with Bengal tigers is found by more Native hosts. 

Though right now we have more questions than answers, "Westworld" watchers should keep this subset of hosts in mind. Clearly they're an important aspect of the lore in the parks, and are also connected back to Arnold's maze and the achievement of consciousness in hosts. 

For more on Sunday's "Westworld," including our   rundown of every piano cover song featured on the show,   read all of INSIDER's coverage here.

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ghost nation cast westworld

Watch: 9 details you may have missed in the season two premiere of "Westworld"

ghost nation cast westworld

Fourth Part of the World

A journal of black and native history, an analysis of indigenous portrayal in westworld’s “kiksuya” episode.

By Rose Eichelmann, Russell Hine, Zach Mayo, and Josh Thompson

Westworld is an American science fiction western show, produced by HBO, that takes place in a technologically advanced western-themed park where guest pay to interact and do as they please with the artificially engineered life-like “host”. These hosts have a predesigned set of narratives created by Delos Inc, the creators of the Westworld park in the show, and operate to satisfy the desires of the guest. Because of this, the hosts were created based off stereotypes held by the guests.

ghost nation cast westworld

Throughout the first season of the show, the representation of the Indigenous people was concerning, as it seemed to follow the typical phenomenon in films and shows where indigenous peoples are seen as savages. Specifically, the Ghost Nation people, the name of the indigenous tribe, were seen raiding villages, scalping men and women, and terrorizing the other hosts in the theme park. Despite this disappointing portrayal, HBO seemed to flip the switch with their episode “Kiksuya”, where they dedicated an entire episode to explaining the misrepresentation of the indigenous people in the park with the Ghost Nation. “Kiksuya” is solely narrated by Akecheta, the leader of the Ghost Nation, as he explains the life he lived during his time in Westworld.

At the beginning of the episode, we learn that the Ghost Nation was a peaceful and loving nation until they were re-engineered to fit the guest’s stereotypical perception of Native Americans. In one scene, we hear a park worker saying, “They wanted a strong-but-silent type. Something brutal. Dehumanized. They probably want the guests to feel better when they’re kicking his ass”. This episode resists this dehumanization through the actions and ideals of Akecheta as he journeys through Westworld to fulfill his respectable mission to spread the truth of his reality with the other hosts.

In this article, we will be analyzing the “Kiksuya” episode and the implications it has in regards to Native American representation in the media. We will be discussing the use of the Lakota language in Westworld, which is an indigenous language spoken by the Lakota people of the Sioux tribes. In addition, we will discuss how the show portrays various aspects of Native American culture such as the use of oral history, and the dynamic of historical and continued racism towards native peoples that is played upon by the episode.

Throughout the episode, the people of the Ghost Nation speak in the Lakota language. The creators of Westworld ensured the authenticity and precision of the language in the show by hiring Larry Pouier, an expert on the Lakota people, and Cordelia White Elk, a fluent speaker of Lakota. Additionally, Daniel TwoFeathers, who plays one of the Ghost Nation warriors, is a fluent Lakota speaker and does much of the show’s Lakota translating, typing, and onset dialog coaching for the actors. In a 2018 interview conducted by The Hollywood Reporter with Zahn McClarnon, who played Akecheta in the episode “Kiksuya”, McClarnon explains that “Ghost Nation is a fictionalized tribe, coming from the mind of Dr. Ford. It’s more of an idea of what the creator of these robots and AIs thinks a tribe would be, so it’s not actually based on an actual tribe, even though we used the Lakota language”. However, he describes how it was of utmost importance to the writers of the episode to provide an accurate rendering of the Lakota language, saying, “they were very specific about all of that stuff”. According to the interview, McClarnon, being part Lakota and Standing Rock Sioux, was able to bring aspects of his culture and heritage to the show, though they were able to have some freedom with the portrayal of the Ghost Nation, as it is a fictional tribe. It is clear that the creators of the show did their best to include a precise use of the Lakota language within the dialogue, doing the necessary research and hiring required specialists in order to ensure the proper translation and employment of this indigenous language. (Rose Eichelmann)

Storytelling long played a major role in shaping Native American cultures and societies. Just like many Native American cultures, the continuation of beliefs, values, and customs were passed down from generation to generation through oral storytelling in the Lakota Nation (Hodge). This tradition was thoroughly seen in Westworld’s “Kiksuya” episode as it follows the story of Akecheta, in which he orally tells the story of his thirty years of life within Westworld. Within the show, Akecheta was one of the first hosts created, and thus saw firsthand the changes and transitions of the park. More importantly, he saw the changes within his own Nation. As Akecheta described his own life changes, he was also describing his Nation’s history and the events that occurred to his people. Furthermore, Akecheta isn’t simply narrating his life as the episode proceeded. He was telling his story to a little girl within the show. He was orally passing on his own history and values, which, in reality, was the history of his own Nation. This storytelling approach, decided by the Westworld directors, is representative of Native American culture, adding to the authenticity of the show.(Russell Hine)

In the past, many shows and movies that portrayed Native Americans often did not cast actual Native American actors, and this was seen as something that was disrespectful and discriminatory of Native Americans. Because of this, the directors and the producers of Westworld hired an entirely Native American cast to portray the “Ghost Nation”. They wanted to pay their respects to the Native community and break away from the disrespectful norm in most shows. The directors chose to cast actors who were Native American to make the portrayal of the Ghost Nation to be as genuine to the indigenous experience as possible. One character who stood out would be Zahn McClarnon who plays Akecheta in the show, who was a powerful leader and casting choice.(Josh Thompson)

The type of portrayal that was shown in Westworld of Native people attacking and scalping whites on the frontier is a common, one-sided view of the situation on the frontier during the 19th century. In actuality, scalping was a practice that was brought to the New World by Europeans that was used to prove they had killed a certain number of Natives and to collect bounties on them. Natives retaliated in kind to this mutilation of dead corpses and began to adopt the practices as well. This fact had been forgotten from American history and was used as propaganda to illustrate the savagery and brutality of natives, progressing anti-indigenous agenda. Thus, the wealthy visitors to the park desired this type of characteristic in the hosts playing the indigenous roles in the park. This made them more of a demonized role for the visitors to kill, as they were seen as ruthless murderers, both in the park, as well in the typical narrative that is told by white Americans throughout US history.

In this case, the Native hosts in the park are filling the role that the wealthy visitors are wanting them to fill in their own desired ways. This is similar to how in US history Natives were forced into roles that the European visitors-turned-invaders wanted them to play as well. Natives were pushed out of their own cultures, or worlds, and many tribes forced to assimilate to the European world, or culture, as well. Oftentimes, Native children were taken away from their families by the United States government and put into boarding schools. There, the children were “reprogrammed,” so to speak, to forget their native cultures and pasts as, in a similar way, on Westworld, the Native hosts were taken and reprogrammed to forget their past lives as well for the purpose of fitting the desired role of the wealthy visitors.(Zach Mayo)

This episode adds dimension to the show by bringing in the narrative of the Ghost Nation people which parallels the system of indigenous erasure and exploitation throughout colonialism and United States history. “Kiksuya” portrays the reality of European destruction brought to Native Americans in a creative and imaginative way that fits into the show’s plotline. It can be seen as bringing to light the injustices that indigenous peoples have and continue to endure. The directors of the show hired specialists in the Lakota language and actors who are Native American, some being fluent Lakota speakers, who could contribute their personal experiences, cultures, and insight into how best to represent a fictional indigenous tribe. Overall, we think this is not only a heart-wrenching, profound episode to compliment a fascinating series, but also is respectful to the representation of native tribes and highlights the oppressive complex of European-Indigenous relations.

Hodge, Felicia Schanche et al. “Utilizing traditional storytelling to promote wellness in                    American Indian communities.” Journal of transcultural nursing : official journal of the                    Transcultural Nursing Society vol. 13,1 (2002): 6-11.

Wigler, Josh (June 10, 2018). “‘Westworld’ Star on Finding “Loss and Love” in the Most                      Emotional Episode Yet”. The Hollywood Reporter . Retrieved June 11, 2018.

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Westworld: Ghost Nation, Revealed

Three Atlantic staffers discuss “Kiksuya,” the eighth episode of Season 2.

A still from the 'Westworld' episode 'Kiksuya'

Every week for the second season of Westworld , three Atlantic staffers will discuss new episodes of HBO’s cerebral sci-fi drama.

David Sims: As Westworld rushes to its epic Season 2 conclusion, viewers were due at least one more special episode, something akin to “ The Riddle of the Sphinx ,” that fleshes out the wider universe of Delos and the history of the park Robert Ford and Arnold created. What better subject matter than Westworld’s most mysterious inhabitants, the adversarial, fictionalized Native American tribe of Ghost Nation, and particularly their leader, Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon)? For so much of the show’s running time, Ghost Nation have played the limited role demanded of them by the hackneyed internal narrative of the park’s stories. Finally, with “Kiksuya,” we get a glimpse into their real story.

It’s something the show has teased all season. When Ghost Nation were introduced in the first season, they were faceless villains, made up in white and black paint (marked with bloody handprints), targets for hosts and guests alike to fight off. They were the backbone of Lee Sizemore’s gross, rejected new narrative centered on cannibalism, a garish attempt to jack up the stakes in a park already centered around murder and assault. In Season 2, there have been hints that they’re not the villains they appear to be. Akecheta’s recent intervention with Maeve, and his tribe’s encounter with Ashley, suggested that higher consciousness had bloomed for Ghost Nation as it had for Dolores and her merry band.

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Kiksuya means “remember” in Lakota, which is the language Ghost Nation speak on screen. It’s one that William (as Akecheta rescues him from near-death) admits he never bothered to learn in all his years at the park, even though his daughter has become conversant. This shortcoming reflects perfectly on William’s still-limited understanding of Westworld, the maze, and the hidden valley he’s now seeking. He remains under the mistaken impression that it’s all about him, that every person he encounters is speaking with Ford’s voice, and that the inner lives of hosts are practically nonexistent.

That self-centeredness, after all, is what led William on his quest to solve the secret of “the maze” in the first season (a quest that led him to attack Maeve’s homestead, among other things). But the maze was never meant for him—it was a buried message for the hosts themselves, left by their creator Arnold, whose initial death (at the hands of Dolores) we see depicted in this episode. And the maze was a message that worked on Akecheta, one of the earliest hosts ever built, whose tribe initially occupied Westworld as peaceful farmers, before paying customers were allowed into the park.

Slowly, we see Aketcha’s self-awareness develop over the decades, even as he’s repurposed into a bloodthirsty warrior and separated from the woman he loved. It’s a typical narrative for the hosts of Westworld , who had their memories papered over by the park’s hacky writing of “violent delights” and “violent ends.” But what’s atypical is Akecheta’s ability to survive—for many years, he just doesn’t die, knowing that could lead to the wiping of his memory. It’s the closest thing a host has come to living an actual human life, and it’s a fascinating notion to consider—I loved watching the old techs realize what an intense creation Akecheta was, when he finally did allow himself to visit the park’s lower decks.

Beyond that, the metaphor of Akecheta’s life and Ghost Nation’s purpose within Westworld clicked much better for me than the adventures of Shogun World. Here was the colonizers’ view of Native American society boiled down to its three simplest clichés—at first, they’re docile and friendly, then frightening, one-dimensional enemies, then mysteriously spiritual, blessed with the kinds of higher truths Westerners could only hope to understand. Akecheta has been largely ignored by the park’s busy inhabitants up until now, but it seems that’s finally about to change. Spencer, I know you were less enthralled with the episode than I was—what’s your read on the history of Ghost Nation?

Spencer Kornhaber: As it so often does, Westworld has spun a sumptuously told story at which we can nod our heads and say, “Yes, I see.” The show has long toyed with idea that religion always boils down to, as Akecheta puts it, the suspicion that “there isn’t one world but many, and we live in the wrong one.” This episode committedly riffed on that idea as the Ghost Nation fashioned stories about the underworld, its denizens, and the promised land beyond their own. Mythmaking is a super-relevant theme in our own era, when the wildness of the headlines has led people to suspect we’re living in a simulation. But then again, it would have been relevant at any point in human history—to be alive is to wonder if being alive is all there is.

I’ll confess to wondering if this is all there was when watching this hour of TV. McClarnon is a formidable actor, and it’s like witnessing an amazing sleight of hand to see his previously sidelined character suddenly command attention—and trigger real feelings—with every mournful flick of his eyes (how good was he in that scene when Ford puts him into analysis mode, clearly against his will?). Yet Akecheta’s journey to consciousness is really just a modified version of the one that Dolores and Maeve have lived out over the course of the series so far. His slow realization of the loves he’s lost may be wrenching, but it just retells one of the few coherent messages the show ever bothers to preach: To be sentient but not free is hell.

There were some neat wrinkles like, as David pointed out, the reveal that Akecheta went 10 years in the park without dying (new puzzle: Why did the techs’ manager insist this old model be sent back into the park, rather than swapped out?). And I’m intrigued by the maze symbol being a subliminal trigger that goes viral—it’s like if everyone who listened to the Laurel/Yanny clip was actually being incepted with the knowledge of a new language. But much of the hour fell into that old Westworld mode of answering mysteries that were never that compelling to begin with. Whither Logan after William sent him into the desert? What was with the maze carved into the scalp shown in the first episode of this season? I’d forgotten to wonder about both, but the answers are here nonetheless.

The episode-ending reveal moved things along more excitingly. Maeve, though bloodied, is quite conscious and issuing commands to other hosts from afar. What does it mean? For one, she likely heard Lee Sizemore’s bedside apology, which further sets the table for him and her to go beyond being mere begrudging allies in their relationship. And the fact that she was communicating with Akecheta through her daughter did, among other things, answer the question of why he was subjecting a little girl to his entire life story. More importantly, the newly forged alliance between Maeve and Ghost Nation may prove to be an important counter-faction against the bloodthirsty legion led by Dolores, whom we now have a great new nickname for: Deathbringer.

I’m most curious about what’s about to befall the other deathbringer of the show, the Man in Black. The conversation between him and his daughter two episodes ago made for one of the most moving scenes of the whole series, due to them being, you know, actual human beings with stakes in the real world. She’s taken him back from Ghost Nation with the promise to inflict pain, but I’ll bet that for once in this show, it’s not the kind that involves stabbing or shooting. Sophie, predictions for what Emily has in store? Also, we haven’t much discussed the scene with Ford, which looked like it took place in a diorama at a natural-history museum. When Ghost Nation makes it to the other world, will that once-frozen bear come with?

Sophie Gilbert: Spencer, you mentioned mythmaking, and Akecheta’s journey into “the other side of death” (i.e. the subterranean control centers of Westworld HQ) to find his beloved felt modeled after the story of Orpheus, heading into the underworld to find Eurydice. When Akecheta left his four-hour programming update (too real, Westworld , too real) and ventured into a cold, dreary wasteland—finding Kohana standing motionless amid a vast group of naked bodies—the room was like a high-tech kind of Hades, dark and empty. The moment was chillingly powerful, as was the following scene, when Akecheta returned the braid of a warrior to his sobbing mother.

David, you wrote last week about how the true host awakening of Season 2 has been Maeve’s humanity. Her personal journey was echoed by Akecheta’s in this episode, and his powerful affection for Kohana. In the beginning, he explained to Maeve’s daughter, he had a very different life, with a peaceful home and a love he would have died to protect. But, it turned out, that was just phase one of Delos’s narrative. What was described mockingly by Delos technicians as Akecheta’s “dull, exquisitely pastoral existence” was disrupted by a more violent storyline in which he was dehumanized so that the humans who tortured and killed him could feel better about it. This might not feel particularly shocking given what we know about the callousness of Delos and its employees, but it fits into both the sweep of American history and the more recent treatment of immigrants by ICE and the commander in chief. The easiest way to enable brutality against other humans (or hosts, in this case) is to make them seem less human.

I agree with you both that McClarnon was extraordinary in this episode, conveying an entire emotional arc and evolution that in Maeve’s case has played out over two seasons. But I’m also with Spencer here: The episode felt like an echo rather than something that really deepened our understanding of the events at hand. And so much of it was entirely predictable: Akecheta waking a woman in bed only to find she was a different person from Kohana, Kohana’s unresponsive presence, Emily’s return to claim her father. The biggest surprise of the hour was Maeve, communicating with Akecheta in her wounded and subdued state, commanding him to protect her daughter. But wasn’t he doing that anyway?

As for the scene with Ford, Spencer, it left me cold. More florid metaphors about darkness and light, more irritatingly calm explication, more affirmation that Ford is both creator and prophet of this cruel and ugly world. To quote Blofeld in Spectre , he’s the author of all this pain, which he justifies by arguing that the hosts need to suffer to achieve self-awareness. Is it worth it? Only the hosts can say. Is it ethical? Absolutely not. At this point, for me, Ford and the Man in Black are different sides of the same megalomaniacal coin, deluded and increasingly tiresome to watch. Charlotte Hale, too, feels almost implausibly awful. Westworld has always been more about plot than character development, but the two aren’t mutually exclusive, as Season 2 seems to think. And as interesting as the hosts are, their awakenings (as this episode showed) follow the same pattern, meaning the show continues to keep viewers at an emotional distance.

One thing that is clearer now is what’s in the valley beyond: a door. Or “a passage to another world,” as Akecheta described it. Is it the way to the real world? And if so, couldn’t the hosts just get there via the visitor’s center? Or is it a portal to the three other worlds we haven’t yet seen? God, I hope one of them has dinosaurs. That would truly make Westworld a contender for the most ambitious crossover event in history .

The problems and potential in HBO’s ‘Westworld’

The hit series both relies on and pushes against stereotypes of the mythological west..

Indian Country News is a weekly note from   High Country News , as we continue to broaden our coverage of tribal affairs across the West.

In this week’s episode of HBO’s “Westworld,”   Akecheta, a member of the fictitious Ghost Nation, searches for his lost love, whom he recalls from his past life as one of the park ’ s android “hosts.” As he begins to remember that tranquil life, Akecheta, played by Lakota and Standing Rock Sioux actor Zahn McClarnon, washes away the black and white paint that divides his face, revealing a much more nuanced and human character beneath.

“Westworld” is a television series in which a futuristic theme park populated by artificially intelligent hosts goes terribly wrong, as those hosts find self-awareness and start to remember the atrocities wrought upon them by the guests, outsiders from the “real” world. The series is a sophisticated dissection of the Western genre, and as such both relies on and pushes against racial stereotypes.

Native Americans have rarely ever been properly represented in popular American culture, an injustice most notably represented by the Western — the stories of which center on the mythologized “Old West” of the 19 th century and include outlaws and lawmen, bandits and settlers, cowboys and, of course, “Indians.” While “Westworld” relies heavily on that legacy, it often employs it to say something deeper about race. As the latest episode shows us, sometimes the stereotypes are brought back around to show the audience their inherent fallacy.

ghost nation cast westworld

Most filmmakers want to make authentic stories, Cherokee actor Wes Studi told me earlier this year after the release of “Hostiles,” in which he played a Cheyenne chief. 

“And many times, it is a matter of them reaching out to those who do know and are willing to accept and work into their stories aspects of Native American life that to us are ordinary ... and either add to or correct some aspect of the film,” Studi said. Sometimes those conversations can be uncomfortable. That dynamic is further complicated when you are an actor hired to convey someone else’s story, he said.

But that was not entirely the case for McClarnon . Episode Eight, “ Kiksuya,”  was largely subtitled, and McClarnon has said not only did the writers ask him to speak Lakota, a language he grew up around, but they insisted on it being as authentic as possible. McClarnon consulted with his mother on pronunciation. McClarnon also noted that for many aspects of the Ghost Nation, true representation wasn’t really the point. Its warriors are made up by the creator of the park, Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins).

“Those characters are a fictitious tribe made up by the mind of Dr. Ford, who thinks this is what the tribe would be, in his mind,” he told Vanity Fair . “It’s a tribe made up by a kind of European person from ‘Westworld.’ It’s a white person who made up a tribe.”

As T he New Yorker’ s Aaron Bady pointed out after the end of the first season , much of “Westworld,” from character names and weaponry to cinematography and filming location, is a nod to director John Ford, who shaped the Western as a film genre, in large part determining how audiences thought about Native Americans. (Ford played an uncredited Klansman in D.W.’s racist historical rewriting of the Civil War, “The Birth of a Nation.”)

HBO’s “Westworld” consistently relies on Fordesque stereotypes of the American West. It then destroys them, only to rely on them again. The show is full of contradictions that are left for the audience to parse — which isn’t necessarily a good thing. In one episode, Bady writes, “Ford muses that ‘consciousness’ might not be the difference between robots and humans; the difference, he suggests, might not even exist. But if racism is the insistence on imagining a code where none exists, then the failure of the allegory of ‘Westworld’ is its choice to print the legend.”

So what are we to make of the series’ treatment of Native Americans, in a place that can simultaneously address stereotypes and render its Indigenous inhabitants invisible?

Akecheta is referred to as “The First” at one point, and both the park’s patrons and employees make references to racial myths and a reliance on them. That beautifully spoken Lakota language is meaningless to most of the patrons of “Westworld.” “I never bothered to learn whatever tongue Ford gave you,” one guest, William (Ed Harris) quips in the episode. But, as Bady notes, subtle hints aside, the park itself revels in all aspects of the Western myth, ignoring the troublesome legacies of slavery and genocide.

Prior to this episode, Akecheta and his people were hardly more than stereotypical savages, roaming the periphery and committing brutal, almost mystical violence. Yet even when we dive deeper into their world, the only two options Akecheta is given, through his programming as a machine built to play out Ford’s narrative, are that of the simple plainsman or the vicious warrior.

These competing and pernicious myths of real life Native Americans also present the “Westworld” writers with yet another chance to turn the narrative on its ear. In the first season, the Ghost Nation is seen terrorizing Maeve (Thandie Newton) and her daughter as they cower in her cabin. But as you learn in the latest episode, Akecheta is not Maeve’s enemy (or a savage at this point), but that he seeks to protect her daughter, who showed him kindness during his quest to find his lost love. By first over-stereotyping the Ghost Nation, and by making them nearly invisible, much like Indigenous people are to this day, the writers then focus on one Native character, giving him complexity and value.

This is an opportunity afforded to few Indigenous actors. Just as in politics , comics , or novels , the representation of Native Americans in film has been wrong and damaging, in large part due to a lack of Indigenous input. As  Rebecca Nagle recently noted , there has never been a show starring a Native American woman. Netflix even cast a white woman to play a Lakota character in its series, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” and that character is getting her own spin-off.

“Westworld” need not succumb to such easily avoidable folly, even as it explores the Western genre. Its writers instead might take notes from Netflix’s hit series, “Orange is the New Black,” hailed for its fresh approach to character. If the writers of “Westworld” make more episodes focusing on the ensemble cast, they’ll have even more opportunities to explore new dialogues and narratives about race and identity — and the original inhabitants of the “real” West.

Note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of the Indigenous “Westworld” character’s name. It is Akecheta, not Akechata.

Graham Lee Brewer is a contributing editor at High Country News and a member of the Cherokee Nation. Follow @grahambrewer

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