‘Dances With Wolves’ actor appears in court in abuse probe
A former Dances With Wolves actor accused of sexually abusing tribal girls and running a cult must be held without bail pending his next court hearing, a judge ordered Thursday morning.
Nathan Chasing Horse, 46, is charged with sex trafficking, sexually assaulting a child under 16 and child molestation. He has been in custody near the north Las Vegas home he shares with his five wives since his arrest Tuesday afternoon.
He appeared briefly in court in north Las Vegas on Thursday, but did not speak before Justice of the Peace Belinda Harris scheduled a bail hearing for Monday. Chasing Horse has not been formally charged.
On Monday, Harris is expected to address Chasing Horse’s custody status while he awaits trial and could set bail after hearing from attorneys, investigators, victims and the accused’s relatives.
Clark County Assistant District Attorney Jessica Walsh told the judge Thursday that Las Vegas police detectives, FBI special agents and victims will speak at the hearing.
Public Defender Michael Wilfong pointed to the front row in the courtroom gallery where Chasing Horse’s family members were seated and said he had “a lot of support”. His relatives declined to comment as they left the courthouse, as did Wilfong.
Known for his role as a young member of the Sioux tribe Smiles a Lot in the Oscar-winning film directed by Kevin Costner, Chasing Horse gained a reputation among tribes in the United States and Canada as a so-called medicine man who performed healing ceremonies.
According to an arrest warrant released on Wednesday, he is said to be the leader of a sect called The Circle, whose followers believed he could communicate with higher powers. Police said he abused his position, physically and sexually assaulted Indigenous girls and took underage wives for over two decades.
Chasing Horse was born on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, home of the Sicangu Sioux, one of the seven tribes of the Lakota Nation.
A 50-page search warrant obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday says Chasing Horse trained its wives to use firearms and instructed them to “shoot it down” with cops if they tried to “break up their family.” When that failed, he would tell his wives to take “suicide pills.”
SWAT officers and detectives took Chasing Horse into custody and evicted the family home without incident.
Detectives who searched Chasing Horse’s property and vehicles found firearms, 41 pounds (18.5 kilograms) of marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms, and a memory card containing multiple videos of sexual assault, according to Chasing Horse’s arrest report released Wednesday.
Additional charges could be brought in connection with the videos, the report said.
Las Vegas police said in the search warrant that investigators had identified at least six sexual assault victims, including one who was 13 when she said she was molested. Police also pursued sexual allegations against Chasing Horse into the early 2000s in Canada and in several 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, police say, while another became a wife after she was 16. He is also accused of recording sexual assault and arranging sex between victims and other men paying him.
His arrest came nearly a decade after he was banned from the Fort Peck Reservation in Poplar, Montana, on allegations of human trafficking.
Fort Peck tribal leaders voted 7-0 to ban Chasing Horse from entering the reservation in 2015, citing alleged drug trafficking and allegations of drug trafficking, spiritual abuse and intimidation of tribal members, Indian Country Today reported.
Angeline Cheek, an activist and community organizer who has lived most of her life on the Fort Peck Reservation, said she vividly recalled the tensions that arose in tribal council chambers when Chasing Horse was banned.
“Some of Nathan’s followers told the members something bad was going to happen to them,” Cheek told the AP. “They threatened our elders who sat in the council chambers.”
Cheek said she remembered Chasing Horse visiting the reservation frequently growing up, particularly during her high school years in the early 2000s when she would see him talking to 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 US to prioritize addressing anti-Indigenous violence.
But she also hopes that the cultural importance of the medicine men is not lost in the news about the crimes.
“There are good medicine men and women among our people who are not trying to commercialize the sacred ways of our ancestors,” Cheek said. “They are meant to heal people, not harm them.”
Resources for sexual assault survivors in Canada
If you or someone you know is dealing with sexual assault or trauma, the following resources are available to support those in crisis:
If you are in imminent danger or fear for your safety, you should call 911.
For a complete list of sexual assault centers in Canada offering information, advocacy and counseling, visit ReeseCommunity.com. Resources in your community can be found by entering your zip code.
Helplines, legal services and locations offering sexual assault kits in Alberta, BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Ontario and Nova Scotia can be found here.
National Boarding School Crisis Line: +1 866 925 4419
24-hour emergency hotline: 416 597 8808
Canada Human Trafficking Hotline: +1 833 900 1010
Trans Lifeline: +1 877 330 6366
Sexual Misconduct Assistance for current or former members of the Armed Forces: +1.844.750.1648