According to a post on Road Show, discussions between Jeep and the Cherokee Nation over the use of the Cherokee name on vehicles took a hopeful turn Wednesday after Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares weighed in during an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
First to catch you up: Jeep has used the Cherokee name for its vehicles for over 45 years. But while the automaker has grown attached to the nameplate, the actual Cherokee people aren’t thrilled with it. Last month, Chuck Hoskin, Jr., principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, wrote in a letter to Car And Driver that the nation was officially requesting Jeep change the SUV’s name:
“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,” Chuck Hoskin, Jr., principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, told Car and Driver in a written statement responding to our request for comment on the issue. “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.”
Jeep’s initial response was less than encouraging:
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.
Jeep says it has nurtured the Cherokee nameplate, but it’s just not Jeep’s to nurture. There is a glimmer of hope here, though. Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that talks with the Cherokee Nation are still ongoing:
Tavares said the company’s “ready to go to any point” as talks progress, though he added he’s not sure “if there is a real problem.”
“But if there is one, well, of course we will solve it,” the CEO said. The Cherokee Nation’s principal chief, Chuck Hoskin Jr., told Car and Driver last month that Jeep had not previously entered into a “meaningful dialogue ... on cultural appropriateness.”
There is a real problem! The Cherokee people are saying there is a problem and they are the ones who get to decide if it is a problem or not, as they are the actual people who nurture and honor the name Cherokee. Car And Driver also brought up this fascinating point about the recent rash of companies removing Native Americans from their corporate logos:
According to Amanda Cobb-Greetham, a professor at the University of Oklahoma and director of the school’s Native Nations Center, the use of Native imagery in sports and popular culture started around the turn of the 20th century. At that time, there were fewer than 300,000 Native Americans living in the United States. “Because of the prevalence of the ideology that Native peoples would eventually disappear . . . Native Americans became part of the national mythology of the frontier and the west and the settlement of America,” Cobb-Greetham said. “And that’s when suddenly you have Native American mascots and products, cultural kitsch. Car names are a part of that.”
Using the image of Native peoples was indeed intended to celebrate them, but in a twisted way that glorified their total erasure from America by categorizing them as mythic beings of the past instead of a living people. In 2021, we can definitely do better than this. It will still be a Jeep, an off-roady fun and customizable vehicle. Jeep will continue to sell a gazillion of these vehicles a year, no matter what they are called. Heck, coming up with new names for the Cherokee is kinda fun.
We will update when we know more about this potential name change.