Arguments For and Against Jeep Dropping the Name “Cherokee”
The question of whether Jeep should change the “Cherokee” name pits the need for cultural sensitivity on one side against honoring and celebrating Native American people on the other.
Critics of using the Cherokee name on a car say it doesn’t honor the tribe and there are better ways to go about it including a better awareness of what the tribe stands for. Those who support continuing to use the name argue it celebrates Native American people for their prowess and pride.
The real issues, however, are whether using the Cherokee name is a form of cultural appropriation, or the adoption of certain elements from another culture without the consent of people who belong to that culture or is it just an example of the cancel culture at work.
It is essential that we find out from the tribe how its feels about the Cherokee name on an automobile. According to Chuck Hoskin Jr., the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, while using the name may come from a place that is well-intended, it does not honor the Nation by having its name serve as the model of a car.
Then there is the question of the cancel culture. Is the tribe’s reaction to the use of the Cherokee name an example of cancel culture at work? Is it an attempt to call Jeep out and stifle its action?
Recently, we have seen an uptick in the cancel culture at work including efforts to silence the “My Pillow” owner and CEO, Mike Lindell, for his supportive comments towards Trump and adopting the conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Was Lindell’s right to free speech being canceled or was it a reasonable reaction given society’s heightened interest in having open and free elections? That’s an issue for another time.
Let’s examine some history. The Jeep Cherokee name was first used in 1974, dropped briefly by the Liberty brand, and restored with the 1993 model year. This raises the question of why is the backlash so strong now some 28 years after its first use?
The answer is simple. We live in a time when the “woke” culture stands up for marginalized groups and the Cherokee nation is one such example. We could argue that all Indian tribes have been marginalized by having their culture appropriated to sell lots of products including jewelry and for the names of sports teams.
But this is not just a case of using the name Redskins by the Washington football team. That’s a derogatory name and should never be used in any context. The issues with the name Cherokee are more subtle.
Some will say the whole matter illustrates how far political correctness has gone. It’s one thing to call out a person for their past actions or words. It’s another to call out Jeep for its use of the name Cherokee for the Jeep model.
In ordinary circumstances I might argue that the Cherokee name should be kept on the Jeep model because it doesn’t disparage the culture but we are in a time where cultural sensitivity is essential. After all, an automobile maker shouldn’t use the name Confederate for a brand name.
Years ago, there was the Dodge Kahuna. Dodge was guilty of making a major faux pas when releasing the Kahuna at the 2003 Detroit Motor Show. While the minivan concept designed with surfers in mind never made it to production, hundreds of Hawaiians signed a petition for Dodge to rename its car, accusing it of being sacrilegious as Kahuna is the word used for "priest."
The bottom line is if a tribe finds a name offensive or inappropriate, we should listen to the, be more culturally sensitive, and change the name.
Posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on February 24, 2021. You can sign up for his newsletter and learn more about his activities at: https://www.stevenmintzethics.com/. Follow him on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/StevenMintzEthics and on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/ethicssage.