Jeep’s Cherokee nameplate is its second-oldest, dating back to 1974. Only the Gladiator model name has been around longer. Jeep recently revived the Cherokee name with the redesigned 2021 Grand Cherokee, which will roll out to dealers soon with more luxury and electrification than ever before. But this SUV could mark the end of the line for Cherokee model names, as the head of the unwillingly eponymous Native American tribe has kindly asked it stop.
“I’m sure this comes from a place that is well-intended, but it does not honor us by having our name plastered on the side of a car,” stated Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. to Car and Driver. “I think we’re in a day and age in this country where it’s time for both corporations and team sports to retire the use of Native American names, images and mascots from their products, team jerseys and sports in general.”
Chief Hoskin’s statement marks the first time the Cherokee Nation has officially disapproved of its name’s use by Jeep. In 2013, when Jeep reintroduced the nameplate to the U.S. market, the Cherokee Nation told The New York Times that “institutionally, the tribe does not have a stance on this,” though there has since been a cultural shift away from the nonconsensual use of Native American iconography. Schools and sports teams alike have heeded growing criticism for unendorsed and sometimes caricaturish or derogative references to Native Americans. Cleveland’s major league baseball team is rebranding from the Indians, and the U.S. capitol’s NFL team—formerly the Redskins—campaigned last season as simply the Washington Football Team.
Jeep, too, is now under pressure to rebrand, as a Cherokee Nation spokesperson told Car and Driver that Jeep reached out to Chief Hoskin directly this month. What the two parties discussed was not reported, though it appears Jeep has not resolved to change its ways, and reportedly insists its nameplate is a compliment to the Cherokee tribe.
“Our vehicle names have been carefully chosen and nurtured over the years to honor and celebrate Native American people for their nobility, prowess and pride,” a Jeep spokesperson told The Drive. “We are, more than ever, committed to a respectful and open dialogue with Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr.”
Jeep’s use of the Cherokee name, of course, might be more of an “honor” if it was used with the tribe’s endorsement which at present, it isn’t. It’s not the only tribal name used in such a fashion, either, as the Mojave trim of the Gladiator and Wrangler was named after the Mojave Desert, which in turn was named after the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe in the American Southwest.
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