NORTH LAS VEGAS (AP) — A former “Dances With Wolves” actor who faces at least five felonies for allegedly sexually abusing Indigenous girls is scheduled to face a judge for the first time in the case on Thursday.
The possible charges against Nathan Chasing Horse, 46, include sex trafficking and sexual assault, according to court records. Clark County prosecutors have not said when they will formally charge him or whether more charges will be filed.
Las Vegas police arrested Chasing Horse this week following a monthslong investigation into alleged abuse that authorities said spanned two decades.
He remained held at a Clark County jail without bail Wednesday evening on the sexual assault charges. A judge on Thursday is expected to address his custody status and could set bail.
Known for his role as young Sioux tribe member Smiles a Lot in the Oscar-winning Kevin Costner film, Chasing Horse gained a reputation among tribes across the United States and in Canada as a so-called medicine man who performed healing ceremonies.
He is believed to be the leader of a cult known as The Circle with a strong following of people who believed he could communicate with higher powers, according to an arrest warrant.
Police said he abused his position, physically and sexually assaulting Indigenous girls and women, taking underage wives and leading the cult. He was arrested outside the home he shares with his five wives near Las Vegas.
Chasing Horse was born on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, which is home to the Sicangu Sioux, one of the seven tribes of the Lakota nation.
A 50-page search warrant obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press claimed Chasing Horse trained his wives to use firearms, instructing them to “shoot it out” with police officers if they tried to “break their family apart.” If that failed, the wives were to take “suicide pills.”
He was taken into custody as he left his home in North Las Vegas. SWAT officers were seen outside the two-story home in the evening as detectives searched the property.
Police found found firearms, 41 pounds (18.5 kilograms) of marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms and a memory card with multiple videos of sexual assaults, according to an arrest report released Wednesday.
Additional charges could be filed in connection with the videos of the underage girls, the report said.
There was no lawyer listed in court records who could comment on his behalf and Las Vegas police said Chasing Horse was “unable” to give a jailhouse interview Wednesday.
Las Vegas police said in the search warrant that investigators identified at least six sexual assault victims, including one who was 13 when she claims to have been abused. Police also traced sexual allegations against Chasing Horse to the early 2000s in Canada and in multiple states including South Dakota, Montana and Nevada, where he has lived for about a decade.
One of Chasing Horse’s wives was offered to him as a “gift” when she was 15, according to police, while another became a wife after turning 16. He also is accused of recording sexual assaults and arranging sex between victims and other men who paid him.
His arrest comes nearly a decade after he was banished from the Fort Peck Reservation in Poplar, Montana, amid allegations of human trafficking.
Fort Peck tribal leaders voted 7-0 to ban Chasing Horse in 2015 from stepping foot again on the reservation, citing the alleged trafficking and accusations of drug dealing, spiritual abuse and intimidation of tribal members, Indian Country Today reported.
Angeline Cheek, an activist and community organizer who has lived on the Fort Peck Reservation most of her life, said she clearly remembers the tensions that arose inside the council’s chambers when Chasing Horse was banished.
“Some of Nathan’s supporters told the members that something bad was going to happen to them,” Cheek told the AP. “They made threats to our elders sitting in the council chambers.”
Cheek said she remembered Chasing Horse visiting the reservation frequently when she was growing up, especially during her high school years in the early 2000s when she would see him talking with her classmates.
Cheek, now 34, said she hopes Chasing Horse’s arrest will inspire more Indigenous girls and women to report crimes and push lawmakers and elected officials across the U.S. to prioritize addressing violence against Native people.
But she said she also hopes the cultural significance of medicine men doesn’t get lost in the news of the crimes.
“There are good medicine men and medicine women among our people who are not trying to commercialize the sacred ways of our ancestors,” she said. “They’re supposed to heal people, not harm.”
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