The disagreement between Jeep and the Cherokee Nation over the use of the Cherokee nameplate for its SUVs is far from over.
The carmaker responded on Wednesday to the Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. in a statement. Jeep replied to Chief Hoskin’s suggestion that the carmaker find a more suitable and less offensive name for its Cherokee SUVs with the following, per the New York Times:
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.
This is the latest in the exchange between the two parties which the NYT details in the following from their report:
Chief Hoskin said he told Jeep during a Zoom meeting in late January that he did not condone its use of the Cherokee name. He said that the meeting was cordial and that he was encouraged that the company had initiated the conversation.
The good thing is talks have not yet broken down and I invite drivers who may not see a problem here to consider the following from Stacy Leeds, who teaches at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.
Leeds summarized the issue well in a quote to the New York Times, where she said “the use of Native American imagery tends to relegate Indigenous people to a stereotype that does not represent the reality of a modern-day people.”
Keep that in mind when considering the position of both parties. Sure, it’s a good thing that Jeep is “open to dialogue” but this isn’t a negotiation, is it? Chief Hoskin has definitively stated that naming a car and profiting greatly off of that nameplate is not honoring the Cherokee Nation.
Jeep either has to cede the Nation’s request or continue to “...honor and celebrate Native American people...” in a manner that neither really honors nor celebrates them. It’s not an honor or a celebration when the actual people your product is referring to are asking you to stop. “Nurturing” a vehicle’s name for years does not bestow ownership, nor represent stewardship. Embodying that identity, as the actual members of the Cherokee Nation do, on the other hand, is a different story.
We’re sailing the sea-change, Stellantis. Carmaker and drivers alike. Chief Hoskin alluded to this, per the NYT, saying, “A generation ago, I don’t think it would’ve occurred to them[.] We’re living in a time where people are thinking a bit more about the impact of imagery and names.” And Chief Hoskin is right.
We already know that Jeep isn’t afraid to make retractions when it perceives something may have a negative impact. Jeep pulled the Springsteen Superbowl ad in the wake of The Boss’s arrest, which has, by the way, been cleared. That ad must have cost the carmaker millions.
Jeep isn’t shy about cutting its losses if it perceives something will tarnish its image. Now we’ll just have to wait and see if Jeep thinks leaving the name in place after having been asked to change it tarnishes its image or not. It could very well also consider the millions of dollars it makes selling the SUVs and decide to go ahead and keep the nameplate, because who needs integrity when you’ve got sales?