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Editorial: Tribal members are people, not cars

Editorial: Tribal members are people, not cars

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Jeep needs to heed the words of Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr., and stop using the tribe's name to market its vehicles. 

In a long-overdue national awakening of the harm caused by using indigenous and racial minority people to brand products, it's time to re-name those SUVs.

Tribal members are people, not cars or sports teams.  

A statement released by Amsterdam-based Stellantis, Jeep's parent company, said the name was "nurtured over the years" to honor Native American people.

No matter the time and money invested, the leader of the specific Native American tribe being used to sell their vehicles says it isn't an appropriate way to honor his people and traditions.

That ought to be enough for the company to make changes.

In Car and Driver magazine, Hoskin said corporations must end using Native American names, images and mascots for branding.

"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 Tahlequah-based tribe is one of the nation's largest federally recognized tribes. Hoskin has been consistent in opposing the use of tribal imagery for non-tribal, corporate gain. 

Sports teams, most recently the Washington football team and Cleveland baseball team, have announced renaming their clubs. Closer to home, the Union school district is in the process of finding a new mascot. 

Companies are re-branding things like pancake mix and ice cream pies away from racist stereotypes. 

This isn't about hurt feelings; this is about objectifying racial groups and using systemic stereotypes. It has a lasting cultural affect, and it's wrong. 

These images are essentially demeaning and normalize racism.

Cultural appropriation is wrong, and it's never too late to do the right thing. Jeep has that chance now and ought to take it. 

Find a new vehicle name and learn more about the Cherokee Nation.  

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