Jeep Cherokee Name Change Unlikely Following Cherokee Nation Leader’s Statement

Liz Kim | Feb 23, 2021

Jeep has used the Cherokee name, without the Cherokee Nation's consent, on its SUVs for more than 45 years. In the past, the Cherokee Nation voiced its displeasure of the practice but hasn't stated an official stance about asking Jeep to cease using the name. Until now.

Jeep Cherokee Name

Cherokee Nation leader, Chuck Hoskin, Jr., provided Car and Driver magazine with a statement about the Jeep Cherokee's name. It said: "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. 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." 

The use of Native American imagery in branding is pervasive, but lately is falling under more scrutiny. Recent trends reflect greater corporate consciousness about branding. 

As a result, companies are demonstrating more thoughtfulness about whether using an image or name of a race or culture solely for the profit and benefit of an entirely different entity is justifiable. And in particular, names of those which have experienced subjugation. This new corporate sensitivity is producing results. Examples include the renaming of professional sports teams and the rechristening of consumer products. 

While some Native American tribes have reached mutually beneficial arrangements with the entities using their names, there isn't one between Jeep or its parent company, Stellantis, when it comes to the Cherokee. According to Car and Driver, one example of such an arrangement is an accord between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Florida State University that includes a scholarship program for students from the reservation.

The Cherokee and Grand Cherokee are cornerstone products and big moneymakers for Jeep, representing more than 40% of its sales in 2020. The SUV maker is getting ready to launch a completely redesigned Grand Cherokee, now available in a three-row, seven-passenger configuration. 

Jeep responded to the situation 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."

Car and Driver is the source of information for this article. It was accurate on February 22, 2021, but it may have changed since that date.

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