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Cherokee Chief Asks Jeep To Stop Using Their Name For Vehicles

In America, the nation's reckoning over usage of Native American names and imagery has largely been contained to sports and Halloween costumes.

There has indeed been some change resulting from that reckoning, with Washington's NFL team finally ditching its "Redskins" nickname and logo even without a replacement selected, and MLB's Cleveland Indians pledging to change their name as well.

But Native American leaders are looking beyond just sports arenas to redress some disrespectful imagery.

The Cherokee Nation is among those pressing for a significant change, now calling upon Jeep to drop the Cherokee name from its vehicle lineup.

"It's time," Cherokee Nation principal chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr., told Car & Driver.

"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," he continued. "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."

This marks the first time any Cherokee Nation official has asked Jeep to change the name.

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As Car & Driver reported, Jeep started using the Cherokee name back in 1974, but the name took a hiatus in the North American market between 2002 and 2013, when the vehicles took on the Liberty name.

When Jeep brought the Cherokee name back in 2013, a Cherokee Nation spokesperson told The New York Times that "We have encouraged and applauded schools and universities for dropping offensive mascots," but they did not go so far as asking the company to stop using the name.

The Cherokee name has been quite popular with Jeep's customers.

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Jeep's best-selling vehicle in 2020 was the Grand Cherokee, and the Cherokee came in third, together combining to account for 40% of Jeep's sales that year, according to Car & Driver.

So far, it doesn't sound like Jeep has any interest in re-naming its vehicles.

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In a statement to Car & Driver, a spokesperson said that, "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."

However, it remains unclear whether Jeep will come around or not.

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University of Oklahoma professor Amanda Cobb-Greetham, who is a member of the Chickasaw Nation, emphasized that the Cherokee Nation should have some say in how its name gets used.

"If you're going to honor somebody, give them an award," she told Car & Driver. "If you're going to name a product after them, you're selling."

That seems to be the bottom line here — while the Cherokee Nation and Jeep seem to be at an impasse, it's hard not to see how their sovereignty shouldn't play a significant role in the dispute, as should Jeep's track record of having used the same vehicles with a different name in the past.

h/t: Car & Driver