Carol Surveyor, a citizen of the Navajo Nation, is running as Democrat to represent Utah's 2nd Congressional district. Photo: Carol Surveyor.

Navajo Nation citizen Carol Surveyor announces run for Congress in Utah

Carol Surveyor, a citizen of the Navajo Nation, is hoping to become the first Native woman to serve in the U.S. Congress.

Surveyor, a Democrat, announced her campaign on Friday. She is pitching herself as a much-needed alternative to Utah's historically all-Republican and -- up until very recently -- all-male Congressional delegation.

"As a single mother of three, I am concerned about the future of my daughters and their rights, protection and the lives on this planet," Surveyor said in a press release. "I know what it's like to not be able to afford healthcare, a home of my own, education for my children, and the simple things like enjoying a vacation to national parks and monuments."

As the co-founder of the Utah League of Native American Voters, Surveyor raised her profile in recent months as tribes and tribal citizens push back against policies advanced by Republican elected leaders throughout the state. She has strongly advocated for the protection of Bears Ears National Monument, whose boundaries are being questioned by the Trump administration.

But Surveyor is also motivated a family tragedy. She moved to Utah after her mother, who lived on the Utah portion of the Navajo Nation, was murdered by her neighbor on the reservation.

Maranny "Marena" Hatalie Holiday was 63 years old when she was shot in the head in November 2015. Timothy Lee Smith, who said he "was an enrolled member" of the Navajo Nation in a court document, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in May. He is due to be sentenced on August 22.

"We can't afford this district and this state to continue supporting the denial of our freedoms and justice to be us and free from oppressive burdens of ideology," Surveyor said. "My mother did not have that chance. I am now in the place to do something."

Republican Chris Stewart currently represents Utah's 2nd Congressional district. He first won election in November 2012, having taken a seat that was previously held by a Democrat.

The 2nd district includes Salt Lake City, the most populous municipality in the state, and largely rural parts in the western portion of the state. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 1.1 percent of the population is Native American.

Overall, Native Americans represent just 1.6 percent of Utah's population, according to the Census. In addition to the Navajo Nation, the state is home to the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, the Northwestern Band of Shoshone Nation, the Paiute Tribe, the San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe, the Ute Tribe and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.

The rest of the state's Congressional delegation consists of Rep. Rob Bishop (R), who serves as chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, which has jurisdiction over Indian issues, and Rep. Mia Love (R), who is the first African-American woman to represent Utah in Congress.

The state has one vacancy due to the resignation this year of Republican Jason Chaffetz. The 3rd Congressional district includes the Utah portion of the Navajo Nation, the White Mesa community of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and the Bears Ears National Monument, whose designation he opposed, along with the rest of the delegation.

Currently, there are only two enrolled tribal citizens in Congress and both are Republicans from Oklahoma. Rep. Tom Cole is Chickasaw and Rep. Markwayne Mullin is Cherokee.

Voters have never sent a Native woman to Congress, although several candidates have tried.

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