Jeep has been using the name Cherokee on their products for more than 45 years. The popular car brand sells the Cherokee and the Grand Cherokee SUVs. Jeep also uses the Mojave as a trim designator on their Gladiator.
The Mojave is the name of both Native American groups as well as a dessert in the Southwest. The Cherokee model of the car is also the brand’s best-selling. The Jeep Cherokee was first introduced in 1974. Then the Grand Cherokee was introduced in 1993. It was dropped in 2001 but picked up again in 2013.
The question is, does Cherokee Nation agree with having their name be used in this way?
Cherokee Nation is speaking out and saying it’s time to retire the names directed at Indigenous groups. This isn’t the first time they’re speaking out, either. Over the years representatives have approached Jeep about the names on some of their products.
“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. The best way to honor us is to learn about our sovereign government, our role in this country, our history, culture, and language and have meaningful dialogue with federally recognized tribes on cultural appropriateness,” Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation Chuck Hoskin Jr. said to Car and Driver.
A Conversation on Racial Justice
This is the first time that Cherokee Nation is asking for the name to be changed entirely, however. The company reportedly has never asked for permission to use the name in the past.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal in June, Cherokee Nation started a deeper conversation related to Indigenous representation. The Black Lives Matter movement has helped spark more widespread conversations related to racial justice.
“We hope the movement away from using tribes’ names and depictions or selling products without our consent, continues. We much prefer a cooperative effort than an adversarial one,” Hoskin said.
There have been several attempts in the commercial industry to stop using certain Native American imagery or names. For example, Land O’ Lakes removed the Native American woman used on its packaging. Cleveland’s MLB team dropped both its name and mascot. The Washington D.C. NFL team has been calling itself the Washington Football Team.
The team is looking for a new name after changing it from the “redskins,” which is considered a racial slur for Indigenous groups. Other schools and universities have also changed names considered offensive.
Jeep’s Response to Cherokee Nation
There has been a lot of work in updating the country’s use of these Native American images and names. Where does Jeep stand now that the company has been explicitly asked to change its product’s names?
In an official statement Jeep said the name has been used out of the utmost respect.
“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.,” Jeep said in the statement, according to HuffPost.
The Cherokee Nation does not want to make a deal where the car company can keep using the name. Instead, they are insistent that corporations should stop profiting off their identity.
“It’s one of the most valuable things. It’s a part of our Identity. And if we wanted to match up who had the stronger claim and connection and affinity for the Cherokee name it would certainly be the Cherokee people,” Hoskin said to CNN Business.
It is unclear how Jeep will adapt its products now.