America’s nationwide groundswell towards racial and social justice has found a new front line – this time, spanning from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Southern Appalachia, with its ultimate crosshairs on Auburn Hills, Michigan.
Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, owner of the historic and venerated Jeep brand, is under fire from numerous Native American groups over its use of “Cherokee,” which dates back to 1974 for the brand’s iconic SUV.
Over 300 members of the loosely-affiliated Muscogee group of tribes, including over 100 Cherokee, marched into an Atlanta-area Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram dealership and purchased a brand new Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, immediately setting it ablaze in the parking lot. The vehicle was symbolically purchased entirely with $20 bills featuring Andrew Jackson.
Daryl Johnson, a local elder of the Chickasaw Nation, produced a megaphone and riled up the assembled crowd up with statements like “We are the original Trail Rated!” referencing the Trail of Tears relocation of Native Americans to Oklahoma in the early and mid-19th century. “They think we’re nothing but casinos now – but if you want to talk about gambling, buy an FCA product! That’s like hitting on 17 in blackjack!” he shouted to cheers of encouragement.
FCA and Jeep already anticipated this backlash and created a contingency plan, announcing the Cherokee’s new name as the Jeep Giuletta CrossMax SportCross Cross Max. The Grand Cherokee will become the Jeep Grand Durango PremLuxe SWB.
Joining in the fight are also tens of thousands of Jeep Gladiator owners, many of who are pushing to have their SUV/Pickups renamed to something more socially acceptable.
“Over 90% of Roman gladiators were slaves, taken against their will and forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of citizens around the Empire,” explains historian David Tracy of Uphill Battle LLC, a Michigan-based Jeep Preservation Society. “At the very least, Jeep could go back to using the Comanche name until somebody starts bitching about that, too.”
Comanche was the name of Jeep’s original pickup truck, but also a tribe from the lower Great Plains with a relatively small activist presence so far.
Descendants of actual Roman gladiators have mixed opinions on the controversy. Gladiators who survived multiple fights were often elevated to celebrity status, living in peace and fathering children. Losing fighters, however were typically buried in unmarked, mass graves. These outcomes have created a bias in the sample, with many claiming that descendants of gladiators should be happy to be alive, while others saying this constitutes an abhorrent form of revisionist history that ignores the victims.
“They even have a Gladiator model called the ‘Rubicon’ – if ‘Gladiator Rubicon’ isn’t a nod to Roman slave history, then I don’t know what is,” explains Mr. Tracy. “I can appreciate the Russell Crowian imagery that Jeep was aiming for, but I can also empathize with people who say it’s a celebration of hatred and oppression. Maybe just call it Spartacus?”
Jeep’s iconic Toledo, Ohio, factory has also seen its share of protests. The city was named in homage to the Spanish town that famously produced high-grade steel for swords, many of which were used by the Conquistadors and other imperialists to subjugate native populations in the Americas over several centuries. Protesters at the factory believe the city’s association with European imperialism and oppressive political theocracies is a relic of the past and should be renamed immediately.
In related news, Indian Motorcycles are preemptively holding discussions with Tata Motors over a potential sale in order to avoid a company name change.