2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
Source: Fiat Chrysler
The principal chief of the Cherokee Nation wants Jeep to stop using the tribe’s name on its SUVs, saying it “does not honor us by having our name plastered on the side of a car.”
Jeep started using the Cherokee name more than 45 years ago, including on the brand’s top-selling Grand Cherokee SUV. It also offers a smaller SUV called the Cherokee, which was its third best-selling vehicle last year in the U.S.
“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,” Chuck Hoskin Jr., principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, 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.”
2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L
Hoskin’s statement was originally sent to Car and Driver in response to an inquiry about whether the tribe condoned Jeep using the Cherokee name on the vehicles. Julie Hubbard, a spokeswoman for the Cherokee Nation, said Hoskin also told Jeep, which is now a part of Stellantis, that he does not condone the use of the Cherokee name during a phone call last month with at least one company official.
“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,” Hoskin said.
In an emailed statement, Jeep said its vehicle names “have been carefully chosen and nurtured over the years to honor and celebrate Native American people for their nobility, prowess, and pride. The company said it is more than ever “committed to a respectful and open dialogue with Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr.”
Hoskin’s criticism follows several companies and sports teams stopping the use of brand names and logos that used ethnic stereotypes and caricatures. They have included food brands such as Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s changing names or packaging as well as Land O’ Lakes removing the image of a Native American woman from its packaging. Sports teams, including Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians and the National Football League’s Washington team, formerly the Redskins, are also dropping Native American imagery and names from their franchises.
Jeep has sold the Grand Cherokee since 1992. A new generation of the vehicle, including a three-row variant, is expected later this year. The company first started using the name Cherokee on vehicles in 1974, according to Car and Driver. After discontinuing the Cherokee name in 2002, it reintroduced a vehicle with that name in 2013.
At that time, a spokeswoman for Cherokee Nation told The New York Times that the tribe had “encouraged and applauded schools and universities for dropping offensive mascots,” but “institutionally, the tribe does not have a stance on” the Jeep Cherokee. She said Jeep did not consult the Cherokee Nation before announcing the vehicle.