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Cherokee Nation chief tells Jeep to stop naming cars after tribe

Chuck Hoskin Jr.
Posted at 2:27 PM, Feb 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-23 16:27:50-05

The Cherokee Nation is calling on automaker Jeep to stop naming two of its best-selling sports utility vehicles after the Native American tribe, as other U.S. corporations and professional sports teams reconsider branding that could be considered racially or culturally inappropriate.

The Oklahoma-based tribe, one of the largest in the U.S., told Jeep parent company Stellantis during a Zoom call last month that it does not condone Jeep's use of the "Cherokee" name in its branding, a spokesperson for the Cherokee Nation told CBS News in a statement Tuesday.

Two of Jeep's most popular and well-known vehicle models are called the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Jeep Cherokee.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. called on Jeep to ditch his tribe's name from all of its cars after Car and Driver magazine asked if he approved of the name.

"I think we're in a day and age in this country where it's time for both corporations and team sports to retire the use of Native American names, images and mascots from their products, team jerseys and sports in general," Hoskin said in a statement to Car & Driver that was later shared with CBS MoneyWatch.

"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," Hoskin added.

He said the best way to honor Native American culture is to study its history, culture and language and to consult with tribes and their leaders on what constitutes "cultural appropriateness."

Jeep, which has been using the Cherokee name for more than 45 years, said the name was carefully chosen to "honor and celebrate Native American people for their nobility, prowess and pride."

Jeep said it is willing to hear out the Cherokee Nation's concerns.

"We are, more than ever, committed to a respectful and open dialogue with Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.," a Jeep brand spokesperson said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch.

Other major U.S. corporations have also faced controversy lately over their products' decades-old branding derived from minority stereotypes.

The Cleveland Indians baseball team has agreed to drop "Indians" from its name, but the sports team doesn't yet know when or how it will be renamed.

Quaker Oats, the parent company of the pancakes and syrup company formerly known as Aunt Jemima, agreed to a rebranding after acknowledging the name was based on a racial stereotype. The company's new name, Pearl Milling Company, was revealed this month.