Native Americans host Cleveland Guardians home opener
After decades of protests against the club’s old name and logo, some say they are ready to celebrate with baseball fans.
CLEVELAND — For decades, Native Americans have gathered at Progressive Field during the home opener to demonstrate against the name and logo of Cleveland’s ball club: Indians and Chief Wahoo.
But with the Guardians debuting this year, some of the city’s true Cleveland Indians are finally hosting the start of the baseball season.
“It was a huge relief to know that our efforts can now go into our communities,” Jessie Vallejo said this week as she and her 8-year-old daughter Lucia walked out of the stadium.
Vallejo, who is Yaqui and Mexican, is secretary of the 500 Years of Dignity and Resistance Committee, which defends indigenous cultures through education and activism. He has been driving home-opening protests for decades.
“We will never have to protest again,” she said. “Our efforts and our livelihoods can go into other things.”
The committee hopes to spend more time convincing high schools to drop names and logos that are racist stereotypes and misappropriate their culture.
“I think we still have a long way to go when it comes to culture and respect,” Vallejo said.
Vellejo and his family are baseball fans, but struggled to support the old team.
“We forgot about real Americans celebrating this baseball game by not acknowledging that name was racist from the start,” she lamented.
She said she lined up to buy Guardians gear on the first day it went on sale, both to support the team and to be a bit “nosy” about fan reaction.
“We’re proud to share the community with people who go to baseball games,” she said, “and we feel safe taking our kids there knowing they won’t experience some of the things either. hateful things that have happened to our elders in the past.”
And a win in the home opener doesn’t matter, she adds.
“Knowing that we can all celebrate together,” she said, “is victory for me.”
Here is a statement on the home opener released today by the Lake Erie Native American Council.
“Today marks the beginning of a new era in Cleveland’s history. We now have a professional baseball team that is more welcoming and inclusive to all Cleveland residents. A team that no longer stereotypes or harms Native Americans with an offensive and problematic team name and mascot We stand on the shoulders of those in our Native community who fought before us and laid the foundations of perseverance over the past six decades, let the Guardians of Cleveland to be a shining example for the nearly 200K across 12 Ohio schools that are still embracing Native American mascots and team names that not only are possible, but are necessary for a more inclusive and bright future. “