A former Dances with Wolves actor who faces at least five felony charges for allegedly sexually abusing Indigenous girls was due to face a judge on Thursday.
According to court records, possible charges against 46-year-old Nathan Chasing Horse include sex trafficking and sexual assault. Clark County prosecutors did not say when they would formally charge him or if any other charges would be filed.
Las Vegas police arrested Chasing Horse this week, following an investigation into allegations of abuse, authorities say, that spanned two decades.
He remained held in a Clark County jail without bail Wednesday night. 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 has earned a reputation among tribes in the United States and Canada for performing 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 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 claimed Chasing Horse trained his wives in the use of firearms, ordering them to “shoot” with police if they tried to “break up their family”. 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-storey house as detectives searched it.
Police found firearms, 41 pounds 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.
There was no attorney listed in court records who could comment on his behalf. Las Vegas police say Chasing Horse is “unable” to give an interview in jail.
Police said in the search warrant, investigators 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 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 accused of recording sexual assaults and arranging sexual relations between victims and 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.
In 2015, Fort Peck tribal leaders voted 7-0 to bar Chasing Horse from setting foot on the reservation again, citing alleged trafficking and accusations of drug trafficking, 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 inside the council chambers when Chasing Horse was banned.
“Some of Nathan’s supporters told the members something bad was going to happen to them,” Cheek said. “They made threats against our elders sitting in the council chambers.”
Cheek said she remembered Chasing Horse visiting the reservation frequently, 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 inspire lawmakers and elected officials to prioritize tackling violence against the natives.
She also hopes the cultural significance of healers won’t get lost in the news of 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.”