The CLEVELAND AMERICAN INDIAN CENTER, founded in 1969 by Russell Means, a Sioux, helped Cleveland's Native Americans adapt to urban life during the 1970s and 1980s. Cleveland, offering good employment opportunities, became one of 8 relocation centers with passage of the Employment Assistance Program. However, high rates of alcoholism, child death, disease, poverty, and suicide indicated a low degree of social integration. With the aid of CLEVELAND: NOW!, the Episcopal church, and the Council on Economic Opportunity, Means opened the center in the basement of ST. JOHN'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH as a cultural and social-service center.

Throughout most of its history, the center was enmeshed in controversy. Shortly after its founding, the CEO threatened to cut off its funds; Means charged the council's black administrators with hoarding funds for east side ghettos. Internally, tribal rivalries battled, although Means proclaimed unity; his leadership was denounced as partisan. Forced out of office in 1972, social worker Irma Yellow Eagle became director. A major scandal over a misappropriated federal grant then led to Jerome Warcloud (Gary Whitsel) becoming director. Warcloud, 5/16 Cherokee, through effective grant writing won CETA funds for the establishment of a training center, but was attacked for moving the center off its original course.

Robert Hosick, an Alaskan Indian and leader of the rival North American Indian Cultural Ctr., also challenged the Center. Casting aside Warcloud's census-supported claims that Cleveland was Ohio's major Indian population center, Hosick lobbied to control 78 of Ohio's 88 counties through the center he established in Akron. He also asked the IRS and FBI to investigate the Cleveland Indian Ctr., got CETA funding cut off during the probe, and was put in temporary charge of Cleveland funds. Though uncovering some questionable financial practices, most charges were dropped when it was agreed that Cleveland receive 34.5% of federal funds, and Akron 65.5%. The Cleveland American Indian Center, located at 5500 Lorain Ave., closed in the late 1980s. Warcloud left the area shortly thereafter. Hosick's organization closed in February 1995.

Throughout its existence, the Cleveland American Indian Center provided help to Indians adrift in an urban environment, concentrating on jobs, counseling, alcoholism treatment, and preservation of cultural identity. In this respect, the American Indian Intertribal Assn., Inc., has filled in this void for Cleveland's American Indian population in the 1990s. Established as a nonprofit organization in Toledo in 1988, the Assn. opened a Cleveland branch office in 1992 at 5139 Superior Ave. Operating with funds from the Ohio Arts Council, local foundations, and organizational fundraising, the Assn.'s purpose is to preserve American Indian culture, as well as to respond to the urban needs of native Americans through job training programs, youth and educational activities, and substance abuse programs. In 1995 Richard Morales served as Cleveland's regional representative for the organization.

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