- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 23, 2015

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A Blackfeet tribal member said Tuesday he is running for Montana’s U.S. House seat as a Democrat in 2016.

James Stgoddard (SAINT GOH’dard) announced his intentions in front of a small gathering outside the Montana Capitol. He said he prefers his name spelled as one word, although past references to him and his work have been as two words.

“I never thought I’d run for Congress. But this country is hungry for leadership, and I think I can provide that,” he said. “We’ve got to stop dividing ourselves.”

Stgoddard, 57, is a spiritual leader of the Blackfoot Confederacy, which comprises Blackfeet tribes in Canada and the tribe in northwestern Montana. He is also a former member of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council.

Stgoddard made news last year for carrying a bison heart in a plastic bag to the governor’s office in protest of an Idaho tribe’s hunt of pregnant bison. Police stopped him, but governor’s officials did allow him to bring the heart into a meeting with the governor’s Office of Indian Affairs director. He then performed a ceremony with the heart and burning sweet grass on the Capitol steps.

He said Tuesday that the protest was his then 9-year-old son’s idea and that it was about respecting and protecting wildlife.

Stgoddard recently moved from Browning to Whitehall to run his campaign, which he said will be positive and respectful.

He’s the first to jump into the 2016 House race.

Republican U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke was elected to the seat in November. When asked for comment on Stgoddard’s candidacy, Zinke spokeswoman Heather Swift simply said Zinke is focused on his work as a congressman.

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