The chief of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma is demanding that Jeep drop the name of the tribe from its popular Cherokee line of sports utility vehicles.
In a statement to Car and Driver, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. said Jeep should “honor” the Cherokee people by learning about the tribe’s history and should no longer use the name of the Tahlequah, Oklahoma-based tribe and its people on its vehicles.
“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,” Hoskin, a Democrat who won a contentious 2019 tribal election, told the outlet.
“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,” the chief added.
Also in the interview, Hoskin expressed his displeasure with all companies using Native American names and imagery, especially in sports.
“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 said in his statement.
Jeep publicly responded to the Cherokee Nation chief executive’s complaint by vowing to continue a dialogue with the tribe over the issue. No commitment was made to move away from the name.
“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.,” the company told Car and Driver.
Jeep Cherokee SUVs have been on the road since 1974, and newer models offer a wide array of options for drivers who enjoy going off-road while not surrendering luxury and comfort.
The complaint from Hoskin comes amid a nationwide lashing-out at corporate America regarding race and products. Last year saw major corporations change products that were deemed by critics to be racist or racially insensitive. But members of the Cherokee Nation have complained about Jeep’s use of “Cherokee” for years.
In 2002, the Jeep Cherokee was replaced by the Jeep Liberty. But the Cherokee ultimately returned in the 2014 model year.
“We have encouraged and applauded schools and universities for dropping offensive mascots,” but “institutionally, the tribe does not have a stance on this,” then-tribal spokesperson Amanda Clinton said of the Cherokee revival in a statement to The New York Times.
Last summer, both Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s rice announced changes to their names and logos following complaints that they perpetuated racist stereotypes. Aunt Jemima is now called the Pearl Milling Company.
Last July, the NFL franchise known as the Washington Redskins dropped its decades-old name and logo amid a corporate outcry. Sponsors pressured the team, which is now called the Washington Football Team.
There are currently movements targeting Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves. The Indians decided to drop their Chief Wahoo logo, but have not changed the team name.
The NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs have also faced calls to rebrand the franchise in the age of corporate social justice activism.
Just two weeks ago, as the Chiefs were preparing to face off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Super Bowl, groups protested over its name and the fan-beloved Tomahawk Chop.
“The Indigenous people of this land have already had a mass genocide approach with regard to their culture and way of living,” Alicia Norris, who co-founded the Florida Indigenous Rights and Environmental Equality, told CBS News.
“And when you further dehumanize them and objectify them, it just kind of falls in line with that extinction of who they are,” added Norris.
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