One of the silver linings of 2020 was that a growing number of Americans had their eyes opened to the racial, cultural, and economic injustices that had always been present in this country but had finally reached a boiling point.
Naming a vehicle after a Native American tribe is wrong even if the intentions were good, the Cherokee Nation principal chief has said, and Twitter has some ideas for what to call Jeep SUVs instead.
Jeep Cherokee SUVs have been produced since 1974, and in the early 1990s, Chrysler (now part of the Netherlands-based company Stellantis) added the luxury Jeep Grand Cherokee model line to its range. Chuck Hoskin, who heads the largest of the three federally-recognized Cherokee tribes in the US, believes his people’s name should not be “plastered on the side of a car,” regardless of the motives for putting it there.
“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,” he told Car and Driver outlet.
Hoskin’s comment made national news.
Jeep responded in a statement:
“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.”
Hoskin said that, in one of the interviews, he had not called for a boycott of Jeep, nor asked Cherokee citizens not to buy Jeep products, but would like to see the name changed.
“My opinion has always been that the name ‘Cherokee’ belongs to the Cherokee people. We are a people who are here against the odds, given what we have been through,” Hoskin said.
However, few people agree with Jeep, including Amanda Cobb-Greetham, a professor at the University of Oklahoma and director of the school’s Native Nations Center. Cobb-Greetham is a member of the Chickasaw Nation and believes that Jeep is not honoring the Cherokees by using their name to sell cars to American consumers across the country.
“If you’re going to honor somebody, give them an award,” Professor Cobb-Greetham said. “If you’re going to name a product after them, you’re selling.”
As with any news regarding newfound corporate sensibilities, there was a mixed reaction to the Cherokee chief’s demand. Many people supported it, while some called for royalties to be paid to the Cherokee people for every sale of an SUV bearing their name. Others said the demand was absurd.
Some people came up with new names that Jeep could use instead of Cherokee. One commenter suggested giving the SUVs the name of “some weird white guy” like Christopher, apparently referring to Christopher Columbus, the explorer whose role in kickstarting European colonization of the Americas made him a target for last year’s spree of iconoclasm in the US and other nations.
There is also an argument to be made that the name “Cherokee” originates from a word that another tribe once called them, so rightful ownership is not clear-cut.
Watch the video below for more details: