Iron Eyes offers 'real world perspective'
BISMARCK--Chase Iron Eyes sees his run for Congress as the next step in his efforts to fight for more equality and opportunities for all North Dakotans.
BISMARCK-Chase Iron Eyes sees his run for Congress as the next step in his efforts to fight for more equality and opportunities for all North Dakotans.
Iron Eyes is the first Native American-endorsed candidate for Congress in North Dakota on the Democratic-NPL Party ticket. He says his legal experience and efforts in improving the lives of other Native Americans provide him with the ability to enact substantial change in Washington, D.C.
"Politicians are completely out of touch with the people they represent. I just felt I could bring a real-world perspective," Iron Eyes said.
Iron Eyes, 38, an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, has focused on improving life for those on reservations. His past efforts include fundraising to protect a sacred tribal site in the Black Hills in South Dakota as well as providing heating assistance to members of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.
Iron Eyes said his path to joining the race began after attending a Dem-NPL district meeting for the first time earlier this year with the intent on becoming a North Dakota caucus delegate for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. His interest in running developed after speaking with party officials at the district meeting.
"I felt that I had some strong qualities to offer the NPL, that our state could be doing better," Iron Eyes said.
Sanders' unsuccessful pursuit of the Democratic nomination for president and Donald Trump's win in securing the Republican nomination shows the nation is ready for a shakeup in politics, according to Iron Eyes, who indicated a key to his campaign is to get out the youth and Native American vote.
As a first-time candidate, Iron Eyes immediately was forced to address two separate matters as he was getting his campaign off the ground.
When Iron Eyes accepted the nomination in April, he outlined a rough past and his work at redemption since then. This included June 2002 charges in Burleigh County District Court on four felonies, including burglary, preventing arrest, theft of property and criminal mischief. He eventually agreed to a plea deal and served 10 months at the Missouri River Correctional Center in Bismarck, completing probation in spring 2007.
Iron Eyes' campaign also got off to a rough start when Internet allegations of an extramarital affair with a tribal judge were brought into the spotlight. He and party officials said the allegations, which have been circulating for some time, are false.
A nude photograph of Iron Eyes also surfaced at the time of the allegations; he told media it was a picture he took while training for a triathlon a few years ago and was unsure how it became public.
These incidents haven't been major factors on the campaign trail, according to Iron Eyes, adding that people bring up economic development and veterans' issues as well as protecting Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare programs. Iron Eyes said those are all areas he'd be a loud voice for in Congress if elected.
"We need a more informed economic trajectory," Iron Eyes said. "My job as a leader is to create those industries, to create opportunities, creating a 21st century North Dakota and not leave anyone behind."
The state and nation need an all-of-the-above energy strategy, said Iron Eyes, while expressing his support for the protest movement near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation over the Dakota Access Pipeline project.
"There's no North Dakota economy, there's no U.S. economy, unless we have a clean source of water. I don't think anyone wants a pipeline upstream from them," Iron Eyes said.
He's optimistic that some sort of solution, including a reroute of the pipeline, can be found between federal agencies as well as state and tribal leaders.
"This is the greatest event in modern North Dakota history," Iron Eyes said of the protests, adding that it's forcing residents to look at issues such as poverty, state-tribal relations and race relations. "It's good for North Dakota. We need a gut-check in North Dakota."