For several years prior to 2015, Nathan Chasing Horse would travel to the Fort Peck Reservation in Poplar, Montana, where he promoted himself as a traditional Lakota healer.
“He was supposedly purporting to be a medicine man, a holy man,” Fort Peck Tribes Vice Chairman Charles Headdress told The Independent in an interview on Wednesday.
Mr Chasing Horse, 46, would offer the tribal residents sweat and dance ceremonies, in return for payment and a place to stay, Mr Headdress said.
“He would put people in trances so to speak, and they become enamoured with him, and he would get to do whatever he wanted,” he said.
On one occasion, Mr Headdress was told by a close female friend that Mr Chasing Horse had lured her back to a house, closed the door and wouldn’t let her leave.
The friend, who was in her 40s, managed to distract Mr Chasing Horse and escaped, Mr Headdress told The Independent: “She was shaken and everything but she seemed to be OK.”
On Monday, a police SWAT team arrested Mr Chasing Horse at the North Las Vegas property he shared with up to six wives on suspicion of child sex abuse and trafficking.
He is accused of using his status as a “Medicine Man” to target vulnerable young Native American girls, convincing them that by having sex they would be inducted into a cult known as The Circle, a police search warrant obtained by the Associated Press alleges.
Mr Chasing Horse was already extremely well-known among indigenous peoples after his memorable turn at age 14 as Smiles a Lot in the 1990 western Dances with Wolves, which won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director for Kevin Costner.
Some time in the late 1990s, he began travelling across the US and Canada taking part in traditional Lakota Sun dance ceremonies which are aimed at reconnecting with the Earth and spirits.
But police say he used the rituals as a front to target women of all ages, mostly young girls.
After years of complaints about Mr Chasing Horse’s behaviour, the Fort Peck Tribal Executive Board banished him for good from their reservation in 2015.
“He touted himself as this big shot, famous person and everybody went to him,” Mr Headdress told The Independent. “I guess he’s very charismatic, and he lured people in with that. Then they found out what he was really like.”
‘You will be sorry’
Mr Chasing Horse, who also goes by Nathan Lee Chasing His Horse, was born in the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, which is home to the Sicangu Sioux, in April 1976.
After his breakout performance in Dances with Wolves, he went on to act in made-for-television films including 2005’s Into the West and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee two years later.
Over the same period, Mr Chasing Horse was travelling to indigenous reservations across the United States and Canada offering spiritual ceremonies.
According to the Las Vegas Police search warrant, Mr Chasing Horse convinced his followers that he could communicate with higher beings and was referred to as “Medicine Man” or “Holy Person.”
Police say he used spiritual traditions and belief systems “as a tool to sexually assault young girls on numerous occasions”.
In July 2015, concerns over Mr Chasing Horse’s alleged criminal offending at the Fort Peck Reservation came to a head.
The former child actor was due to hold a Sun Dance ceremony at the site, which is home to about 10,000 people and roughly one and a half times the size of Delaware, the next month.
However, elders were aware that Mr Chasing Horse was being criminally investigated for the alleged sexual assault of a young girl two years earlier, according to a report in ICT News, a non-profit that covers indigenous communities.
They also said he was being investigated for human trafficking, drug dealing and intimidation of tribal members, according to ICT News.
The Independent has contacted a senior investigator at the Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law & Justice for confirmation.
The Fort Peck executive committee felt that law enforcement weren’t doing enough to hold him accountable, and voted unanimously to expel Mr Chasing Horse from the reservation, ICT News reported.
“The federal government fell asleep on this but I’m not,” Councilwoman Roxanne Gourneau was quoted as saying at an executive meeting of the elders. The order allowed tribal authorities to arrest Mr Chasing Horse on sight.
The banishment was reportedly met with angry outbursts by Mr Chasing Horse’s supporters.
“All of you will regret this and you will be sorry,” a supporter identified as Dakota Christian said, according to ICT News.
Another supporter, an elder identified as Jackie Perry, likened Mr Chasing Horse to Jesus Christ, saying both were crucified for promoting messages of peace and unity.
Speaking to The Independent on Wednesday, Mr Headdress said he had no hesitation in voting to banish Mr Chasing Horse from their tribal lands.
He explained that it was customary for traditional healers to receive payment after a ceremony, whether it be a blanket, money, or lodging; but never sexual gratification, as Mr Chasing Horse is alleged to have done.
“He was abusing that sacred tradition,” he said. “He is definitely a very bad person.”
On Monday night, police in armoured trucks descended on Mr Chasing Horse’s home in North Las Vegas, where police say he was living with as many as six wives, and several children.
The raid came three months after police received a tip that Mr Chasing Horse had been engaged in the trafficking and sexual abuse of girls as young as 13 for several decades.
Police were reportedly concerned that Mr Chasing Horse had been anticipating the raid, and prepared his wives to be ready for a shootout if they ever tried to “break their family apart,” according to records obtained by the AP.
If that failed, he had prepared his wives to take suicide pills, according to police.
The AP reported that police found memory cards with videos of the sexual assaults, firearms, 41 pounds of marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms in the home, according to an arrest report.
Police allege that Mr Chasing Horse targeted indigenous girls from single parent homes, grooming and sexually abusing them, according to the police search warrant obtained by the AP.
He would convince them that the spirits wanted to have sex with them, and they would become part of The Circle, the warrant states.
Mr Chasing Horse is also accused of filming himself carrying out sex acts on minors, and supplying girls to other men to have sex. According to the warrant, Mr Chasing Horse would give the girls emergency contraceptive pills to prevent them from getting pregnant.
A woman who said she was a victim of Mr Chasing Horse took to social media six months ago with disturbing details of how she was physically and sexually abused.
In viral Facebook and TikTok posts, the woman said she was raised by Mr Chasing Horse in a traditional way of life, and called him “grandpa” growing up.
When she turned 14, she said “everything changed”. She said her mother was diagnosed with cancer, and in return for treating it she said Mr Chasing Horse demanded to take her viginity and her first born child.
She said she became one of his “wives” and that the physical and sexual abuse continued for several years, until she was allowed to leave in 2020.
Quannah Chasing Horse, a model who is Mr Chasing Horse’s biological daughter, offered her support to the alleged victim after her posts went viral last September.
The Independent has contacted Quannah and the woman who went public in September with her abuse claims.
Mr Chasing Horse is facing one count of sexual assault with a child under 16 and child abuse, and two counts of sexual assault and sex trafficking of an adult.
He made a brief appearance in court on Thursday, where he was ordered held until a bail hearing on Monday, according to the Associated Press.
The arrest came as states including South Dakota hire specialist law enforcement positions to investigate crime against indigenous communities.