NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. — A former “Dances With Wolves” actor accused of sexually abusing Indigenous girls and women for two decades in multiple states has been charged in Nevada for crimes that prosecutors said occurred in the Las Vegas area starting in 2012.
Nathan Chasing Horse, 46, was formally charged Monday morning during a brief appearance in a North Las Vegas courtroom full of his friends and relatives who had hoped to see him released on bail. But a judge postponed hearing arguments about his custody status until Wednesday to allow Chasing Horse to find a new attorney.
Nevada law requires prosecutors to present convincing evidence that a defendant should remain in custody. Clark County Deputy District Attorney Jessica Walsh said last week that she expected testimony from Las Vegas police detectives, FBI special agents and victims.
In the meantime, Chasing Horse is being held without bail at a jail in downtown Las Vegas. He has been in custody since his Jan. 31 arrest near the North Las Vegas home he shares with his five wives.
Chasing Horse is charged with eight felonies, including sex trafficking, sexual assault against a child younger than 16, and child abuse, according to a criminal complaint. Prosecutors also filed an additional felony charge Monday in connection with what detectives said were videos saved on a phone showing sexual assaults of a minor.
Seated opposite of Chasing Horse's family on Monday, some of the victims and their supporters held signs inside the courtroom reading “NO MORE STOLEN SISTERS” and “WOMEN AREN'T PRISONERS.”
Rulon Pete, executive director of the Las Vegas Indian Center, said after the hearing that the victims had been prepared “to help out with making sure justice has been served.”
“Unfortunately there's a lot of anxiety they're experiencing," he told The Associated Press after speaking with the victims and prosecutors. "When this got pushed back, it was like adding more weight to the situation.”
He did not enter a plea Monday after he was formally charged. In Nevada, defendants do not enter a plea until their criminal case is bound over to a state district court, either after a grand jury indictment or after a judge decides prosecutors have enough evidence for the defendant to stand trial.
Chasing Horse played the role of Sioux tribe member Smiles a Lot in Kevin Costner’s 1990 Oscar-winning film.
Since then, he has built a reputation among tribes across the United States and in Canada as a “medicine man.” Chasing Horse, police said, abused that position and took underage wives over two decades in multiple states, including South Dakota, Montana and Nevada, where he has lived for about a decade. He also was banished from the Fort Peck Reservation in Poplar, Montana, in 2015 following similar allegations.
Detectives described Chasing Horse in a 50-page search warrant as the leader of a cult known as The Circle, whose followers believed he could communicate with higher powers.
Pete, of the Las Vegas Indian Center, described the role of the medicine man in their culture as a highly respected leadership post. “They’re like priests, if you will."
“You follow what they teach,” he said, adding that the victims have shown great courage by speaking out despite the intimidation and threats Pete said they have faced since Chasing Horse's arrest.
An arrest report for Chasing Horse shows at least six victims have been identified, including one who was 13 when she said she was abused, and another who said she was offered to him as a “gift” when she was 15.
After SWAT officers took him into custody last week, detectives searched the family’s home and found guns, 41 pounds (18.5 kilograms) of marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms, according to the arrest report.
The criminal complaint filed Monday also charges Chasing Horse with two misdemeanors in connection with a dead bald eagle and parts of a dead hawk discovered during the search of his property.
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.