WASHINGTON, D.C. — Robert Doore has had to fight every day of his life. The battlefield has changed from when his Blackfeet ancestors inhabited the Great Plains of Montana in the 1700s and 1800s, but the war has continued into the 21st century as many Native Americans are forced to live in two worlds — one embracing their culture and tradition, and one pursuing success in the Western world.
“I’m firmly grounded in our culture, I’m firmly grounded in the people and who we are and who I am as a true Pikuni Blackfeet, and I never wavered from that,” said Doore. “A true warrior today can compete in both worlds. … I believed in me and I never doubted what I believed I could become as an Indian man, but also as a professional.”
Doore’s legal name is Robert Ridesatthedoor, or Eee Tooks Dough Toop Pee, which translates to He Who Rides From The Enemy’s Door. He recalls the name being shortened “to be competitive in mainstream society.”
“Once we changed the name, life got a little easier. Credit was approved, bank loans were approved, and I didn’t have to explain to people that didn’t understand our culture what’s the basis of my name,” he said. “But I still embrace the uniqueness of my name, but Robert Doore is the easiest way when you’re combining two worlds.”
“In growing up on the reservation, we realized early that not only did you have to be very fluent in both worlds, but you had to be able to compete in both worlds,” said Doore’s father, Smokey Ridesatthedoor.
It’s that competition that led Doore to one of the most prominent and rare jobs in North American sports as a front office executive in the National Football League.
Doore now resides in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, but he grew up in Browning on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Like many kids on the reservation, he had dreams of playing professional sports. His father was a coach in the community and was on the staff that led Browning to its first Class A boys basketball state championship in 1980.
“Robert always slept in the gym because we were there constantly,” recalled Doore’s mother, Darnell Ridesatthedoor.
The family was immersed in sports year-round and Doore, the middle of five children, embraced the competitive culture. He watched his older sisters and extended family members compete — including his uncle Doug Davis, who played on Montana State’s 1984 national championship football team. Doore quickly developed his own obsession.
He would don his football helmet and pads and run the mile from the family’s home to the highway before practice in the fall. And when one of Browning’s notorious snowstorms would hit in the winter, he would travel by snow machine to the gym for basketball practice.
“My personal motto was, ‘drive, determination and desire.’ In competition, the person that works harder is going to beat you, so nobody was going to outwork me,” said Doore, who had a standout high school career in football, basketball, cross country and track and field.
For a young athlete in Montana, it’s hard to match the euphoria that comes with Friday or Saturday nights on the basketball court or football field.
In Browning, that feeling is exacerbated.
“When I was running out with the war bonnets in Browning, Montana, on the basketball court, which we’re famous for, one of the things that could never be matched, or I thought could never be matched, was running out on the court with 5,000 people,” Doore said, referencing the unrivaled passion and intensity that’s so pervasive on Montana’s reservations.
Doore hung motivational posters on the walls of his bedroom — which he moved into before his dad could finish hanging the drywall as the family outgrew its three-bedroom house — and ultimately became a fan of a football team when his dad returned home from a trip to Washington, D.C. The Washington Redskins wore a logo depicting Chief Two Guns White Calf.
“That’s the community I grew up in, is where he came from, Two Guns White Calf,” Darnell Ridesatthedoor said. “Not only was it historical, but it was also more of a personal matter because it was people, real people that we know. … It was innate, it was pride and dignity.”
Doore’s Washington fandom was more than just manic fanaticism. He fell in love with the football team and he considered its success his success — not just because he idolized the players on the field, but because he felt the logo shed a positive light on his culture. To him, wearing that logo was a symbol of pride, courage and hope to contrast and battle some of the grim realities of life on the reservation.
“There’s no secret if you look at the statistics. Suicide rates are up, drug and alcohol issues exist, small-town politics are harsh. The diabetes and some of the health issues with dietary situations are very evident, well-documented. The murdered and missing women is a real issue up there, back home, and in the country in general,” Doore said.
On Nov. 28, 1992, that harshness hit Doore directly. His adopted brother Scott Little Dog was shot and killed at a house party in Browning.
“After that, things changed for Robert a lot,” Darnell Ridesatthedoor said. “He became angry and he was upset, wanted revenge, the typical anger-grief of any human being, to avenge Scotty.”
“That had a tremendous impact. As Natives on the reservation, we face a lot of death. Death is common, it’s all over the place, hardships are common, far too young and far too early in life,” Doore said. “But for me, I had a choice. I had a choice to either go down a path that had no positive outcome because of his death, or I could try to heal. … I began to reflect on some of the impact that he had on me and some of the dreams that we had to be bigger than what the small town was all about and be able to have a positive impact, so I made the choice to go forward.”
The Blackfoot elders have passed wisdom down to future generations. One of their philosophies centers around the buffalo, which, unlike cattle, will turn directly into an oncoming storm. Buffalo, elders say, know the quickest way through a storm is to charge through the elements.
Like a buffalo turning into the storm, Doore put his head down and moved through his own trials following Little Dog’s death.
Doore admits to failing — “I failed a lot,” he said, “but I had the choice to get back up and keep going forward or I could quit” — but he focused on his education, graduating from Blackfeet Community College alongside his mother and eventually earning a Master of Business Administration from the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D.
That — not his athletic traits or determination on the football field — would ultimately be Doore’s path to the NFL.
In 2014, Doore became the director of guest experience and training camp with the football franchise in Washington.
“I’m just a Montana boy that dreamed big and wanted to make a career in sports, maybe as an athlete first, but turns out the business side is where I made my career,” Doore said.
“The ultimate is when he called and he said, ‘Daddy, I interviewed, and I got picked over all the applicants to work for the Redskins,’” a proud Smokey Ridesatthedoor reflected.
Doore was eventually promoted to the head of guest experiences at FedEx Field, which is home to the Washington Football Team. Essentially, Doore oversaw a staff of thousands of employees responsible for the fans’ game-day experience. He also used his platform with the franchise to further educate people on Native American history, culture and sensitivity.
“Sharing our culture is tremendous,” Doore said, “because you’re not going to find a people that’s more loving, quick to love, embrace and fight for you, so it’s a level of education, I think, versus ignorance and being bias.”
While with the Washington Football Team, Doore was one of the highest-ranking Native Americans in the NFL.
“I dreamed of making it to the NFL as a professional, as part of a team, and the amount of work that goes into both, on this level or even in high school in Montana, matches it. And it’s just on a bigger, bigger scale,” Doore said. “But I think about my roots all the time, I think about every day being in the stadium and think about where I came from. I’m blessed with undeserving blessings, truly. … I look back and I smile sometimes when I think about the crowd and where I’m coming from and the camaraderie that comes from when you have 80 to 100,000 fans screaming at the top of their lungs. All it is is Browning, Montana, in a gym on a Friday night on a much bigger scale.”
Doore left the Washington Football Team and FedEx Field earlier this year to become the president and certified management consultant at Chief Mountain Consulting, where he will focus on culture, diversity and inclusion.