Robert Roche (left), executive director of Cleveland American Indian Eduction Center, confronts fake Indian (right) outisde Progressive Field. Photo Credit: Twitter
Real American Indians have been protesting Cleveland baseball team for decades
CLEVELAND — Robert Roche has been involved with the Cleveland urban American Indian organization since his college days some 45 years ago. He is now the executive director of the American Indian Education Center, which once was the Cleveland American Indian Center.
As a young man, he met American Indian Movement leader Russell Means, who was running the Cleveland American Indian Center then. He became good friends with Means. Even way back then the American Indian community in Cleveland opposed the name of the Cleveland major league baseball name. The organization filed a lawsuit to have the name changed.
Fast-forward to this past Friday, Roche was still fighting the name. Roche is Chiricahua Apache, the tribe that produced the likes of Geronimo and Cochise.
Roche, other American Indians and their allies were outside Progressive Field protesting the name. They were heckled by fervent Cleveland baseball fans who were yelling things such as: “Get a job,” or “find something better to protest.”
Then a non-Native, dressed as an Indian complete with fake cheap feathers and his face painted red, was approaching the Roche and his fellow protesters.
“I saw him coming with a sort of entourage behind him. I was mad, so I went over to confront him,” Roche told the Native News Online on Monday morning.
Someone snapped a photo of the real American Indian confronting the fake Indian that hit the Internet late Friday afternoon and has been making its rounds ever since.
“I have been at this a long time, I had no idea one single photo would get so much attention,” said Roche, who referenced the photo that hit Twitter and other social media sites over the past weekend.
“I asked him if he understood the mockery he was making of us…of our religion by having those feathers and his faced painted. He told me: ‘I am honoring you guys’,” Roche said as he recounted the confrontation. “He kept telling me how he was honoring us.”
“I told him: ‘Don’t Honor Us!” Roche said. “It is a mockery to us. It is a mockery to our religion.”
Roche continued that the fake Indian cited a poll that says 60 percent of American Indians approve of the Cleveland team keeping the name.
“He could not tell me what poll or who conducted the poll,” said Roche.
“I have been at this a long time. I have never met any in our community who approves of the name,” commented Roche.