Candi crusade seeks national awareness

by Sara Goo

The two men who raped and murdered his cousin admitted to the crime, but that is not enough justice for Harold Iron Shield.
He wants to take the Justice for Candi campaign to the national level to foster an awareness of violence against Native American women.
Iron Shield’s cousin is Candace Rough Surface, a Lakota woman from the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota. She was raped, dragged behind a truck and dumped in the Missouri River almost 16 years ago.
James E. Stroh II of Eagle River, Wis., confessed to the killing in October. He plea bargained to first-degree manslaughter in exchange for testimony against his cousin, Nicholas Scherr, 31. Scherr pleaded guilty last week to first-degree manslaughter.
Scherr is expected to be sentenced today in a Selby, S.D., court. He faces up to 100 years in prison and would be eligible for parole in 13 years. Stroh’s sentencing will be in June.
Although Rough Surface was raped, those charges were dropped because the statute of limitations had run out.
When Iron Shield, 47, met with a handful of University students Tuesday to talk about his campaign, he named almost a dozen similar cases of murdered Native American women like Rough Surface.
“I want people to know what is happening to our people,” Iron Shield said.
Iron Shield said many women’s organizations did not show interest in the Rough Surface case despite his many attempts to give them information. He said his only alternative is to make the Justice for Candi campaign a rallying point.
Native people don’t have “the convenience of being a white person in the justice system,” Iron Shield said.
According to news reports, Rough Surface’s family applauded in court last week when Scherr pleaded guilty to murder and apologized to the family.
But not all family members and residents of the Standing Rock Reservation were happy with the judicial process. The trial has heightened racial and cultural tensions between the Native American and Caucasian communities — the reservation and the town of Mobridge, S.D. — which are separated by the Missouri river.
When asked his opinion of Scherr’s guilty plea and apology, Iron Shield asked, “Why didn’t they apologize 15 years ago?”
Iron Shield said the community has changed since news journalists have been covering the trial. When he went to grocery stores with his friend in the mostly white community of Mobridge, he said he was treated like a king.
“For the first time, I was not even followed around by an employee,” he said. Instead, the manager offered coffee to Iron Shield.
Iron Shield said he was curious to see how the town would act when the journalists leave.
Regardless of Scherr’s sentencing, Iron Shield said the family plans to issue a wrongful death lawsuit against Scherr and Stroh. Meanwhile, they will combine efforts with other reservations in South Dakota to push the Justice for Candi campaign into other states.
Chaplain Galen Hora, who attended the discussion with Iron Shield, said the Lutheran Episcopal church near the University campus plans to plant a tree in Candi’s honor in the fall.