Fort Yates attorney seeking Dem-NPL nod for Congress

BISMARCK - Chase Iron Eyes, an attorney and enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who has advocated for American Indian rights, is running as a Democrat for North Dakota's lone seat in the U.S. House.Iron Eyes said he will officially a...

BISMARCK – Chase Iron Eyes, an attorney and enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who has advocated for American Indian rights, is running as a Democrat for North Dakota’s lone seat in the U.S. House.

Iron Eyes said he will officially announce his candidacy Friday and seek the Democratic-NPL Party’s endorsement Saturday at its state convention at the Bismarck Event Center. The Fort Yates resident also is a delegate to the convention from District 31.

“I’m running for Congress out of necessity,” he said in a phone interview Thursday night. “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.”

Dem-NPL Executive Director Robert Haider said he couldn’t say if any other candidates are expected to seek the endorsement. 

Current U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer is running for a third two-year term. He faces a challenge from perennial candidate DuWayne Hendrickson of Minot for the Republican Party’s endorsement, which will be decided Sunday at the state GOP convention in Fargo. Robert “Jack” Seaman of Fargo is the Libertarian Party’s endorsed candidate for House.

Iron Eyes, 38, is a Fort Yates native who graduated from Standing Rock High School in 1996. He received bachelor’s degrees in political science and American Indian studies in 2000 from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, where he also was president of the UND Indian Association.

He earned his law degree from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law in 2007 and has been a practicing attorney since 2009, mainly practicing federal Indian law and administrative law. He’s licensed to practice in state court in South Dakota and federal courts in North Dakota and South Dakota.

Iron Eyes also has raised money to protect a sacred Indian site in South Dakota’s Black Hills and to provide heating assistance to people on the Standing Rock reservation. He helped found the Lakota People’s Law Project, which advocates for tribally controlled child and family services, as well as the website Last Real Indians.

Iron Eyes is married to Sara Jumping Eagle, a pediatrician. They lived in Bismarck from 2008 to 2014, when they moved back to Fort Yates with their three children. He also served as a tribal judge in New Town from 2011 to 2014.

Iron Eyes said he feels North Dakota is “at a precipice” because of oil development that has brought tremendous benefits to the state but also increased crime and environmental impacts, and job layoffs with depressed oil prices. He said fracking in the state “needs to be reined in and done responsibly,” but he wouldn’t outright say he opposes it.

“I can’t say that I’m against North Dakotans having jobs. I think we need to do a better job of North Dakota having an energy economy,” he said.

Iron Eyes said Cramer’s apparent support for GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump also drew him into the race.

“Part of why I’m seeking the endorsement is because I think that the Republicans are having to question themselves. They’re having an identity crisis because of Donald Trump. Reasonable Republicans have to be asking themselves, how did this happen?” he said.

“Trump represents a lot of fear, a lot of ignorance … the antithesis to the social evolution that is our country,” he added. “We need to take steps forward, not backward.”