Last week Native American activist Chase Iron Eyes accepted the North Dakota Democratic party’s endorsement to run for the U.S. House.
This week he finds himself dealing with internet allegations of an extramarital affair with a colleague – complete with a nude picture of him – which he says aren’t true.
“I’ve been dealing with this for years,” Iron Eyes, who is married, told me. “A third party or somebody has used this over that time, time and again, in an attempt to try and ruin me and my family.”
“It’s pretty vicious. A pretty vicious hack job,” he added.
At issue is a post – first published on the Tumblr account of Last Real Indians, a news and opinion website Iron Eyes co-founded – which included a nude photo of himself as well as a screenshot of text messages purporting to show a discussion of an affair.
The original post, supposedly written by Last Real Indians co-founder Ruth Hopkins, has been deleted but other blogs which shared it are still online.
“I did not create that Tumblr post and do not know where it originated from,” Hopkins told me when I contacted her for comment. “It didn’t come from my social media accounts.”
She said she has seen screen shots and other social media postings referencing it, and that she’s asked those people to take the postings down because they are untrue.
Since I broke the news of Iron Eyes’ candidacy I have received dozens of messages from people linking to re-posts of the original prompting me to reach out to the candidate.
Iron Eyes says the photo is of him, but it’s something he took of himself several years ago while training for a triathlon.
He said it was a “fitness progress check” in his training.
He says he doesn’t know how the photo became public, but that it’s being used to smear him.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]”It’s out there,” Iron Eyes said. “I’m going to have deal with it one way or another.”[/mks_pullquote]
“This is old news. There are many people out there who are capable of pretty vicious things,” Iron Eyes said. “I have no shortage of those sort of people who follow my moves.”
But he’s resigned to the fact that it’s public, and now that he’s running for Congress he has to explain it.
“It’s out there,” he said. “I’m going to have deal with it one way or another.”
In December of 2015 Iron Eyes did admit in a Facebook posting to an “inappropriate cyber relationship” with Hopkins.
Shortly before launching his campaign Iron Eyes deleted his social media accounts, but screen shots (see here and here) of this particular posting was provided to me by Jacqueline Keeler, a Native American journalist who writes for Indian Country Today and The Nation.
Iron Eyes acknowledged writing the post, but wouldn’t elaborate on the relationship with Hopkins he was referring to.
“I don’t want to talk too much about that now,” he said. “It certainly wasn’t what people were led to believe.”
Keeler says she’s concerned about ethical leadership for Native Americans, and was one of several people who reached out to me about the nude photo and affair allegations after news of Iron Eyes’ candidacy was made public.
“There are a lot of questions about what this means,” Keeler told me. “We don’t want candidates who are vulnerable to blackmail because of hidden issues or scandals. Bringing this out to light now is for the best for everyone.”
“I’ve had to answer for this bull*** for a long time. I’m sick of it,” Iron Eyes said. “It doesn’t really get us any further in the conversation about where we’re going as people, and as far as educational opportunities with our kids, our quality health care, and a clean and safe environment. It’s been very hard me and my family over the years has dealt with this internally.”
In the House race Iron Eyes will face Republican incumbent Kevin Cramer, who is seeking a third term in office, as well as Libertarian Party candidate Jack Seaman.
Iron Eyes has previously addressed a criminal history which includes four felony convictions for burglary, preventing arrest, theft of property, and criminal mischief.
The charges, filed in Burleigh County (Bismarck), originated in June of 2002. He pled guilty to them in April of 2003.