In February, Chuck Hoskin Jr., the chief of the Cherokee Nation, said it was time for Jeep to get a new name for its SUVs, which prompted Jeep to reply with a non-answer. I’m excited to report that Jeep has stepped in it again.
This came in a new interview Jeep CEO Christian Meunier did with Nilay Patel at The Verge, out Tuesday. The interview is ostensibly about Jeep’s transition to electric, but near the end, at around 52:41 of the interview, Meunier is asked about the Cherokee name. The following is a transcript of the exchange:
Nilay Patel: By quirk of timing alone, you and I are speaking on Indigenous Peoples’ Day here in the United States. You’ve just announced a new Grand Cherokee. Last year, the Cherokee Nation came out and said, “It’s time to stop using this name.” Have you talked to them? Are you going to keep using the name? How is that going?
Christian Meunier: We’re having weekly conversations with the Cherokee Nation, and we’re very respectful of them. We have a very good relationship with them. I would say that, I’m not going to comment more, but we’re establishing a really good relationship with them. And, so far we’ve been okay. We’ll see how things evolve. But, we’re in constant touch. We don’t want to create any problems. We’re very respectful, and that’s all I can say. So far, so good.
Patel: Was there any thought to, “Hey, we’re putting out the new version of the car. It’s a good time to change the name”?
Meunier: We love the name. We think it’s a big name. And, we’ve heard a lot of people from the nation that love the name. They think it’s an honor to have their nation’s name on a great car. So, we’ll see where it leads us, but we’re working with them on finding the right solutions in the future. It’s very important.
A Cherokee Nation spokesperson’s response to The Verge was a swift and devastating blow:
The Cherokee Nation has had a few calls and/or virtual meetings with the Stellantis leadership, the last one in June, 2021. Chief Hoskin has publicly commented on the Cherokee name for marketing/branding by corporations as well as the harm Native mascots create for schools and in team sports. Those views have not changed. Neither Chief Hoskin or anyone in his administration has ever expressed the idea that the company’s use of our name is a great honor.
Jeep knows that it’s using something that doesn’t belong to them and will keep doing it, not because they are trying to honor anybody or anything but because doing so has made Jeep a lot of money. I don’t expect a Stellantis brand to change that any time soon, given that Stellantis’s American brands — remember that cringe Dodge thing? — are the most backward in the industry. Then again, I never expected the Cleveland Indians or Washington Football Team to change their names either, so what do I know. Change the name, Jeep.