Another Native American candidate for Congress. It looks like a record year.
This is Trahant Reports.
Chase Iron Eyes announce his candidacy for Congress at the North Dakota Democratic Convention last weekend. He was endorsed unanimously and is now the party’s nominee for the state’s only congressional seat.
He told The Forum News Service: “I’m running for Congress out of necessity. I take a look around and I see that our government is broken, and I feel responsible to do my part to try and fix this on behalf of North Dakota.”
Iron Eyes is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, a founder of Last Real Indians, and an attorney for the Lakota People’s Law Project.
What’s interesting is the 38-year-old Iron Eyes would be considered by many, a flawed candidate. He has served time in prison for burglary and in many states, he would not be allowed to vote, yet alone run for Congress. But the party’s executive director told The Grand Forks Herald that Iron Eyes told party officials about his criminal record and they saw this as a story of redemption.
At the party convention last weekend Iron Eyes told his story to the party faithful. He said he had been a serious alcoholic and then turned his life around. He eventually graduated from University of Denver law school and had to go through a complex judicial process to prove he was morally fit to practice law.
Then it’s also important to remember that elections are about policy, not just people. And in this race there is a clear distinction. A choice. Iron Eyes is challenging U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer.
The North Dakota Republican made news a couple of years ago by opposing provisions in the Violence Against Women Act that recognized tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians. In a 2013 post published on Last Real Indians, Melissa Merrick, a Spirit Lake tribal advocate for victims, told about an encounter with the congressman. “Cramer began what turned out to be roughly 20 minutes verbal attacks directed at me and meant for all Native people,” she wrote “Cramer stated that indeed he did vote yes on the Violence Against Women Act, but he did not agree with the Tribal Provisions and that he was sure they would be overturned in the Supreme Court.”
Merrick told Cramer about her story of survival and that Violence Against Women Act would have been a help. But, she wrote, Cramer responded, “Tribal Governments are dysfunctional. Tribal Courts are dysfunctional, and how could a non-Native man get a fair trial on the reservations?”
Another issue that most certainly will be a part of this debate will be energy development in North Dakota. In his interview with the Forum News Service IronEyes said the state needs to do a better job of managing an energy economy, including the environmental impacts. That’s the kind of debate elections are for.
This brings the number of Native Americans running for Congress to nine (and I know of at least one more who will announce next month). I’d say that’s a record, but since no one has ever charted it before there is nothing to measure against.
I am Mark Trahant reporting.