NORTH LAS VEGAS (AP) — A former “Dances With Wolves” actor who faces at least five felonies for allegedly sexually abusing Native girls is due to face a judge for the first time in the case on Thursday.
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 if any other charges will be filed.
Las Vegas police arrested Chasing Horse this week following a months-long investigation into alleged abuse that authorities say spanned two decades.
He remained held in a Clark County jail without bond Wednesday night for sexual assault. A judge is expected to rule on his custody status on Thursday and could set bail.
Known for his role as a young Sioux tribesman Smiles a Lot in Kevin Costner’s Oscar-winning film, Chasing Horse earned a reputation among tribes in the United States and Canada as a so-called healer who held 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 a warrant for his arrest.
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, home to the Sicangu Sioux, one of the seven tribes of the Lakota Nation.
A 50-page search warrant obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday claimed Chasing Horse trained his wives in the use of firearms, ordering them to ‘shoot’ them with officers if they tried to ‘break up their families’ . If that failed, the wives had 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 house in the evening as detectives searched the property.
Police found firearms, 41 pounds (18.5 kilograms) of marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms and a memory card containing several videos of sexual assaults, according to an arrest report released Wednesday.
Additional charges could be filed in relation to the videos of the underage girls, according to the report.
No attorney listed in court records could comment on his behalf, and Las Vegas police said Chasing Horse was “unable” to give an interview in jail on Wednesday.
Las Vegas police said in the search warrant that investigators have identified at least six sexual assault victims, including one who was 13 when she claims she was abused. Police have also traced sex allegations against Chasing Horse to the early 2000s in Canada and several states, including South Dakota, Montana and Nevada, where he has lived for about a decade.
One of Chasing Horse’s wives was given to him as a “gift” when she was 15, police say, while another became a wife after she turned 16. He is also 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 human trafficking allegations.
Fort Peck tribal leaders voted 7-0 to ban Chasing Horse in 2015 from setting foot on the reservation again, citing alleged trafficking and accusations of drug trafficking, spiritual abuse and intimidation of members tribal, 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 council chambers when Chasing Horse was banned.
“Some of Nathan’s supporters told the members something bad was going to happen to them,” Cheek told the AP. “They made threats against our elders sitting in the council chambers.”
Cheek said she remembers Chasing Horse visiting the reservation frequently when she was growing up, especially during her high school days in the early 2000s when she saw him talking with his 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 United States to prioritize in the fight against violence against indigenous people.
But she added that she also hopes the cultural significance of healers will not get lost in news about the crimes.
“There are good healers among our people who don’t try to commercialize the sacred ways of our ancestors,” she said. “They’re supposed to heal people, not hurt them.”