The Cherokee Nation on Monday said it has requested that Jeep “retire” the name of its best-selling sport utility vehicle and called for a discussion with the automaker on “cultural appropriateness.”
The Grand Cherokee is Jeep’s top-selling vehicle, and the Cherokee its third-biggest-selling model. Together the vehicles made up more than 40 percent of Jeep’s total sales in 2020.
“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 Chuck Hoskin Jr. said in a statement.
“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,” he said.
Hoskin told Jeep’s parent firm Stellantis “he does not condone” the use of the name Cherokee on the vehicles, according to the statement reported by Car & Driver.
“My view is that a corporation shouldn’t be marketing its products using our name,” Hoskin said. “For the Jeep company, I think they look at it as something they conceived of decades ago, and I think they very much, in good faith, believe this is honoring the Cherokee people. I disagree, and we’ve had this name a bit longer than the Jeep company has. We’ve had it since before recorded history.”
Jeep responded in a statement: “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. We are, more than ever, committed to a respectful and open dialogue with Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr.”
Hoskin said to honor the Cherokee Nation, learn about its culture and history, and “have meaningful dialogue with federally recognized tribes on cultural appropriateness.” But he said making a deal with Jeep to be paid royalties from the sale of the Cherokee vehicles would be “problematic.”
“Financial incentives, things of that nature, to me, don’t remedy the underlying problem,” he said.
In July, the Washington Redskins NFL team announced it would change their 87-year-old team name and logo.
But the son of Walter “Blackie” Wetzel — the Native American whose 1971 design of the Redskins logo depicts John “Two Guns” White Calf, a Blackfoot chief who also appears on the buffalo nickel — said the mascot is not offensive.
Of the mascot change, Lance Wetzel said, “It takes away from the Native Americans. When I see that logo, I take pride in it. You look at the depiction of the Redskins logo and it’s of a true Native American. I always felt it was representing my people.”
And in December, the American League baseball team the Cleveland Indians announced it will drop the name it has used since 1915. Meanwhile, Land O’Lakes quietly removed the Native American woman from the packaging of its butter.
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