8 'Cherokee' Things That Aren't Remotely Cherokee


The Jeep Cherokee is returning for the 2014 model year.

Well, it was supposed to -- but it's not here yet.

When it arrives, the 2014 Cherokee will replace the Liberty, which replaced the Cherokee a decade ago. Was the switch to Liberty a nod to cultural sensitivity -- and is the return of the Cherokee a reversal? It's hard to make that case given that the Jeep Grand Cherokee has been with us all along. This summer, a New York Times article on the return of the Cherokee observed that "so far, marketing materials for the 2014 Cherokee model have eschewed references to, or portrayals of, American Indians and their symbols."

Maybe Chrysler intends for Cherokee to denote the strength and honor of some romanticized vision of Cherokee Indians. Or maybe, at this point, the market research says that Cherokee is simply a word that car buyers like. 

After all, Americans -- and the British and Aussies as well -- have been slapping the name Cherokee where it doesn't belong for at least 200 years. Why stop now? Here are seven more "Cherokee" things that won't be passing any blood-quantum tests. 

Cherokee Hydrogen Bomb Test

Operation Redwing was a series of 17 tests of nuclear bombs at Bikini and Enewetak Atolls, with each detonation named for a Native American tribe. Because, you know, American Indians are all about death, destruction, and reckless ruination of the natural world. Of all the tests, Cherokee (May 21, 1956), at Bikini Atoll, was the most noteworthy, as it goes down as the first successful detonation of an H-bomb dropped from an airplane. The bomb was actually dropped four miles off target, but as John C. Abell wrote at wired.com, "the point is made: Nobody is safe from the most fearsome weapon ever designed by humans." And while American Indians might not have a lot in common with the bomb itself, they can relate to the story of the indigenous population of Bikini Atoll. Abell writes that the Bikini Islanders "were moved to a series of other islands where they suffered hardships, repeatedly faced starvation and never lost the desire to return home. The United States repatriated them in 1968, but radiation levels were worse than anticipated, and they were removed again in 1978." Been there, done that.

Cherokee Apparel

There's nothing remotely Cherokee about this manufacturer of reasonably-priced ladies' apparel (available at Target and other fine retailers) -- the origin story on the company's website tells of James Argyropoulos, a first-generation Greek-American who wanted to sell wedge shoes to the hippie chicks of Venice Beach in 1973. Fortunately, the company doesn't seem to have traded too heavily on its Indian name -- well, as long as you don't count the Indian-maiden logo it used for its first 20 years.

Cherokee Class Brig-Sloop

The British Navy built 111 of these ten-gun warships between 1807 and 1829, and gave them swashbuckling names like HMS Alacrity, HMS Wizard, and HMS Sheldrake. But it was the modestly-monikered HMS Beagle that went on to become the most famous: It was modified for expeditions, rather than warfare, and a scientist by the name of Charles Darwin hopped aboard for adventures in biology. On its second voyage (the famous one Darwin documented in his diaries) the Beagle made stops in South America, Australia, and Africa before returning to Europe -- conspicuously avoiding Turtle Island, home of the real Cherokees, altogether. HMS Beagle? Some might say HMS Chicken.

Piper Cherokee

Aircraft manufacturer Piper went crazy for the Indian model names beginning in 1954 with its PA-23 Apache. The PA-28 Cherokee debuted in 1961 and a variant of the PA-28, the Cherokee Archer LX, is still produced today.

Cherokee Red Ale

Cherokee Red Ale is an Irish-style red ale produced by the Smoky Mountain Brewery and sold in its four restaurants in Tennessee. Just another example in the long history of putting Indians on beer packaging. Hey, it's better than Crazy Horse Malt Liquor. Because everything is better than Crazy Horse Malt Liquor.

Cherokee, Victoria, Australia

Cherokee was founded aroung 1880-1. Within a decade, back on Turtle Island, the Dawes Commission would create the Dawes Rolls, a document that would forever determine who can and can't claim to be authentically Cherokee. Seems Old Man Dawes overlooked this tiny shrimp on the barbie of Australia's most populous state.

Cherokee Web Server

Cherokee is an open-source web server that has been developed as an alternative to Apache, which has been the dominant web server software for the World Wide Web. Do you want to know more than that? We could tell you about how it does on-the-fly gzip and deflate compressions. Perhaps you'd like to hear about its database bridging and sharding. And dig this: It's resilient to the 10000 simultaneous connections barrier. Or did we just blow your mind?




Glenn Krasner's picture
Glenn Krasner
Submitted by Glenn Krasner on

It is unfortunate that Native American tribe names continue to be appropriated and exploited to sell products, similar to African-American names and products (they still sell Uncle Ben's and Aunt Jemima with no shame whatsoever). I think they brought back the Jeep Cherokee name, because a lot of people consider that vehicle iconic, and unfortunately, that was the name foisted on that iconic product in the '60s, and it is all about brand recognition to increase sales. This in no way makes it right, and I totally disagree with it, but for Chrysler it is all about the past brand recognition and getting the money from consumers. At some point, all this cultural insensitivity and racism has to end, and your articles will continue to help this endeavor. Glenn in the Bronx, NY.

Lorrie  Starr's picture
Lorrie Starr
Submitted by Lorrie Starr on

It is called appropriation. We are a people who seem left out of what might be called PC, it's so widespread, the Pontiac are a people, not a car, no sports team would dare use a person's race to name their team, to dress imitating them, can you imagine if they tried to name a team something like the"New York Negroes"Yet people even remain oblivious to statements like "low man on the totem pole" or "running around like a bunch of wild Indians" as being offensive.It is like telling someone whose child died years before that they should just move on and get over it. This is intergenerational pain and it seems people need to be better informed...