Cherokee chief calls on Jeep to pull Native American name, and other corporations to do the same

The principal chief of the Cherokee Nation says he believes U.S. corporations and American sports franchises should stop using Native American tribes in their names and as mascots in what some are viewing as self-inflicted ‘cancel culture.’

“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,” Chuck Hoskin Jr. told Car and Driver magazine.

“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, noting that Jeep, in particular, should stop using the name “Cherokee” on its most popular model of SUV.

As noted by The Hill, Jeep has been selling a version of the Cherokee since 1974. Currently, the automaker’s Grand Cherokee is its best-selling model.

Left-wing organizations and pundits have long decried the use of Native American names and imagery by non-native entities. But their efforts to ban such usage and, in effect, further blot out Native American heritage, really picked up steam following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis last May.

Some of the most high-profile erasures have occurred in American professional sports. In the wake of Floyd’s death and the ensuing riots around the country, the NFL’s Washington Redskins changed their name to the interim Washington Football Team as officials seek a new, permanent moniker and mascot.

Also, Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians discontinued the use of the team’s historic “Chief Wahoo” mascot at the beginning of the 2019 season, with league commissioner Rob Manfred claiming that the change was in the interest of “building a culture of diversity and inclusion throughout the game.” And last year, the team decided to drop the “Indians” name as well, which the team had used since 1915.

Brands have also ditched Native American imagery, including Land O’ Lakes, much to the chagrin of some Native Americans including Robert DesJarlait of the Red Lake Ojibwe Nation in Minnesota. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, DesJarlait — the son of the American Indian commercial artist who created the brand’s “Mia” maiden — noted that she “was never a stereotype.” 

But Hoskin maintains commercial use of Native American imagery and names is somehow dishonoring and disrespectful.

“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.

Nevertheless, Jeep officials said model names were chosen carefully to “honor and celebrate Native American people for their nobility, prowess, and pride,” the magazine reported.

For his part, DesJarlait, who himself has participated in protests against the use of Native American stereotypes, lamented Land O’ Lakes’ decision to drop Mia with an oblique reference to the canceling of Native American culture.

“Mia’s vanishing has prompted a social media meme: ‘They Got Rid of The Indian and Kept the Land.’ That isn’t too far from the truth. Mia, the stereotype that wasn’t, leaves behind a landscape voided of identity and history. For those of us who are American Indian, it’s a history that is all too familiar,” he wrote.

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Jon Dougherty

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