The Jeep Grand Cherokee and Cherokee models are two of the brand’s best sellers, making up 40 percent of the automaker’s sales in 2020. They’ve been well received by the buying public as well, with the Jeep Grand Cherokee being the most awarded SUV of all time. That said, not everyone is a huge fan of these SUVs. More specifically, the names that are attached to the models. According to a report from Car and Driver, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation Chuck Hoskin, Jr. believes that it is time for Jeep to rename these 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, Jr. told C&D in a written statement. “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 statement comes at a time when other corporations have started to rethink their use of native american iconography. Last year we watched as D.C.’s infamously named NFL team became the Washington Football Team, and as Cleveland’s MLB team dropped their name and mascot. Now though, the auto industry will have its turn to decide how to navigate this sensitive topic.
Jeep has been utilizing the Cherokee nameplate since the original two-door SUV made its debut in 1974. Outside of a stint from 2002-2013 when the model was renamed the Liberty here in the States, the Jeep Cherokee has been on sale continuously since then. And while you might be quick to note that the Cherokee Nation hasn’t been upset until this year, that just isn’t the case.
The National Congress of American Indians has tried to get companies to stop using Native American names and icons ever since 1968, before the iconic Jeep models ever hit showroom floors.
“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,” Jeep said in a statement. “We are, more than ever, committed to a respectful and open dialogue with Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr.”
American history, especially as it relates to Native Americans, is tremendously complex. You can’t tell the story of this country without recognizing the fact that our forefathers decimated the lives and cultures of the people who originally populated this land. We can all say that Jeep means well, just as sports fans in Washington and Cleveland did for decades. But if the Cherokee Nation is asking the automaker to rethink their decision, the two groups should have a conversation. They are the ones who would know whether or not something honors their heritage and culture, after all.