By Rio Yamat
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
LAS VEGAS (AP)- Charges are mounting against a “Dances With Wolves” actor who is accused of sexually abusing and trafficking Indigenous women and girls in the U.S. and Canada for decades.
A grand jury in Nevada indicted Nathan Chasing Horse on Wednesday on 19 counts, expanding on previous charges of sexual assault, trafficking and child abuse to include kidnapping, lewdness and drug trafficking. Chasing Horse, 46, now faces charges in four jurisdictions, with the newest case brought by prosecutors on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana.
Police in Las Vegas have described Chasing Horse as a cult leader who used his position as a self-proclaimed medicine man to gain access to Indigenous girls and women, who he physically and sexually assaulted and took as underage wives. Prosecutors also accused him of grooming young girls to replace his older wives. His followers in the cult known as The Circle believed he had healing powers and could communicate with higher beings.
Chasing Horse’s public defender, Kristy Holston, told The Associated Press that she was looking forward to revealing holes in the state’s case during a preliminary hearing that was canceled Wednesday morning ahead of the indictment. She declined to elaborate.
“Since the public is so interested in this case and because only select details of the accusations have been released, we think it would be most appropriate for the State to present their evidence in a public hearing where the defense can reveal the weaknesses of the State’s case on the record in court,” she said in an email.
Holston didn’t immediately respond Wednesday afternoon for comment on the additional charges filed against her client. An arraignment is scheduled March 1 in Clark County District Court.
Chasing Horse has declined multiple requests from the AP for an interview from the Las Vegas jail where he’s being held on a $300,000 bond.
Born on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, Chasing Horse is widely known for his role as Smiles a Lot in Kevin Costner’s 1990 Oscar-winning film, “Dances With Wolves.” He was arrested Jan. 31 near the North Las Vegas home he shared with his five wives.
Authorities searched the home and found firearms, psilocybin mushrooms, 41 pounds of marijuana and two cellphones containing videos and photos of underage girls being sexually assaulted, according to an arrest report.
The footage of the assaults led to federal child pornography charges in U.S. District Court in Nevada.
Chasing Horse’s arrest in Nevada was the culmination of a months long investigation by Las Vegas police. According to court documents, police uncovered a pattern of sexual abuse and alleged crimes dating back to the 2000s across multiple states, including Montana and South Dakota, as well as Canada, where he’s been charged with a 2018 rape in British Columbia.
Earlier this month, prosecutors with the Fort Peck Tribes in Montana charged Chasing Horse with one count of aggravated sexual assault in connection with a 2005 rape, according to a warrant obtained by the AP.
Ken Trottier, a tribal court criminal investigator, said Wednesday that two teenage girls at the time had accused Chasing Horse of rape. The investigation was closed, Trottier said, because the girls’ statements couldn’t be corroborated.
That changed after Chasing Horse was arrested in Nevada, Trottier said, with more evidence that allowed Fort Peck to pursue a criminal case.
It’s unlikely, though, that Chasing Horse will ever appear in tribal court, Trottier said. Tribal leaders banished him from the reservation nearly a decade ago amid allegations of human trafficking.
“We don’t ever expect him to return here,” Trottier told the AP. “If he ever steps foot on our reservation, he will be hunted.”
Trottier said Wednesday that he hopes federal prosecutors in Montana will step in, allowing for stiffer penalties if Chasing Horse is charged and convicted of any crime on the reservation, where federal authorities have concurrent jurisdiction when the victim and suspect are both Native American.
“I will probably never have the satisfaction of being able to put handcuffs on him,” Trottier said, “but at least we’re able to help the Las Vegas case and other investigations.”