For years, members of the Native American community say they were deeply suspicious of Nathan Chasing Horse.
“It was, ‘Make sure you never leave a young woman alone with this person,’” Frances Danger, who is Muskogee and Seminole, told The Daily Beast. “It was never an exact allegation of specific things, but we knew. We knew.”
Chasing Horse, who gained a modicum of fame as the character Smiles a Lot in the 1990 Kevin Costner blockbuster Dances with Wolves, now stands accused of running a cult through which he raped and trafficked multiple women and girls for two decades. Lingering fears about the former movie star’s behavior appeared to have been validated Tuesday, when police announced they had arrested Chasing Horse, 46, at his home in North Las Vegas.
On Thursday, he appeared in court. Prosecutors said they expect to charge Chasing Horse with sex trafficking, sexual assault, and child abuse, among other possible counts. Chasing Horse was ordered held without bail through at least his next court date on Monday. Michael Wilfong, Chasing Horse’s court-appointed lawyer, said during the hearing that his client had a “great deal of support” among his family.
A 50-page search warrant, obtained by the Associated Press, outlined wild allegations against Chasing Horse. It alleged he was the leader of a cult called The Circle, and took on underage wives and abused teenage girls and women throughout the country and in Las Vegas. An arrest report released Wednesday unveiled more shocking details: Chasing Horse allegedly armed and trained his young wives to protect him and “shoot it out” with cops if they ever came looking for him. The women were also allegedly given suicide pills to take if officers stormed their home.
There was no indication that a shootout occurred when Las Vegas cops eventually came knocking this week. An arrest report said cops seized guns, over 40 pounds of weed and psilocybin mushrooms, and memory cards rife with proof of sexual assaults carried out by Chasing Horse, the AP reported. Police said one of Chasing Horse’s wives was just 15 when she was given to him as a “gift,” and he took on another wife shortly after she turned 16. Wilfong, Chasing Horse’s lawyer, did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Thursday.
“His proclivities were known to us but also were not taken seriously outside of our circles,” Danger told The Daily Beast.
‘No one wants to be the one to say the first thing’
Chasing Horse is well-known among Native tribes across the U.S. and Canada, and held himself out to be a supernaturally gifted medicine man and spiritual healer—a respected position he used to reel in victims, police say.
Danger, a freelance writer and Native advocate who lives in Oklahoma, said Chasing Horse’s reputation for the kind of conduct alleged by police this week was common knowledge in the community. However, it remained an open secret for a slew of reasons, she explained. Among them, Chasing Horse, who appeared in Dances with Wolves at the age of 14 and later traveled North America performing Sun Dance ceremonies, was a celebrity of sorts. That, along with the understandable fear of the backlash that often rains down on accusers, combined to shield Chasing Horse, who reportedly had as many as five wives, from any serious accountability until now, Danger said.
“[Dances with Wolves] was one of the biggest representations of us that was out there, as flawed as it was,” she continued. “Because it is so hard to have a platform outside of Indian Country, there was almost a reverence there. No one wants to be the one to say the first thing.”
At the same time, the rumors about Chasing Horse, a member of the Sicangu Sioux tribe, were no longer just rumors. In 2015, Chasing Horse was unanimously banished by tribal elders from the Fort Peck reservation in northeastern Montana after several years of allegations of human trafficking, drug dealing, spiritual abuse and “intimidation of tribal members.”
“He would put people in trances so to speak, and they become enamored with him, and he would get to do whatever he wanted,” Fort Peck Vice Chairman Charles Headdress told The Independent, adding, “He touted himself as this big shot, famous person and everybody went to him. I guess he’s very charismatic, and he lured people in with that. Then they found out what he was really like.”
The Daily Beast reviewed dozens of social media posts and comments, some from nearly a decade ago, in which members of Native communities publicly shared encounters with Chasing Horse that mirror this week’s criminal charges.
“I met this man years ago in Santa Fe, N.M. after his big debut in ‘Dances with Wolves,’” one wrote in 2015 of Chasing Horse. “I was with two females who were a part of the same program that I was and he ‘Nathan’ immediately went to one of the girls and swept her off her feet. Just walked over to her, picked up her hand and kissed it. He never left her side for the entire visit that we were there. She even stayed with him in his private room in Santa Fe, N.M.It all makes sense now!”
“I saw this guy after the powwow here during the 4th,” a woman in Montana wrote the same year, noting that Chasing Horse “had a harem of young girls” with him who followed him around.
“They looked young, I told my son, that guy is a cult leader,” she went on.
Another in New Mexico posted, “Yeah I saw him take two of them [to] the port-a-potties at Morongo 2 years ago…creepy. He checked out the potty before escorting one of them to it…they also stand every time he dances…uber creep.”
But as Danger noted, others were reluctant to say anything negative about Chasing Horse.
“No matter how things turn out for him or anyone involved with this banishment the sad part is on… all sides” a member of the Native community in Saskatchewan wrote. “[O]ur people speaking n acting against one another.judging n critizing. Gossiping n pulling n holding each other down. Tribal council. actor or tribal member or not. All that was never apart of our way of life. This is not who we r[.]”
Much of this dialogue emerged in the summer of 2015, when Chasing Horse was banished from Fort Peck.
But the banishment was only that—tribal leaders determined Chasing Horse could never step foot on the reservation again, but he faced no criminal charges. In a news story announcing the leaders’ decision—7-0 in favor, with two abstentions—many residents shared their relief on Facebook.
Similar allegations began to emerge this week, with a Dallas-area English teacher tweeting on Thursday: “I saw him at a powwow eons ago. At first, I was excited and then noticed how creepy his vibe was. When young girls flinched at the sight of him, I knew.”
The woman, who asked for her name to be withheld, told The Daily Beast in an email, “I fangirled because I knew him from movies and that’s it. It wasn’t until girls rolled their eyes that I figured something was up. I think I asked someone and she said he was dirty.”
Alanna Onespot, from the Tsuut’ina Nation and Siksika Nation, wrote on a 2015 message board that she and her sister walked with Chasing Horse from 2010 to 2014—a period where she claims she saw first-hand how Chasing Horse “preys on young girls,” which was “the thrill of the hunt” for him.
Onespot wrote that, had it been the “Buffalo Days,” referencing the 19th century and prior, Chasing Horse’s behavior would’ve had him killed by tribal leaders.
The following year, Chaske Spencer, an actor who performed in Twilight, wrote to the same forum, saying he used to defend Chasing Horse until he began seeing “breaks in the image he was portraying.”
It began with Chasing Horse asking him for money for things like gas, Spencer wrote. Then he “also started to notice the cult mentally that Nathan Chasing Horse and his followers were pushing” on him.
“As Native People there’s so much shit have to deal with on an everyday basis,” Spencer wrote. “We don’t need people like Nathan Chasing Horse and other fake medicine men taking advantage of our children.”
Spencer said he got away ASAP—later hearing about the sexual abuse Chasing Horse’s closest followers allegedly endured years later.
“So, I just said fuck him. I’m gone,” Spencer said. “I tried to talk to a few of his helpers. But, I could see they drank the kool aid and it was no use. So, I just left and chalked it up as a learning experience.”
Back then, Spencer wrote that he hoped one of Chasing Horse’s ex-followers would eventually tell their story, expose the “skeletons” in his closet.
“Let’s open the door so people can see what you really be doing,” Spencer said.
‘This is not all we are’
To Frances Danger, the whole thing is not only infuriating but also deeply disappointing.
“We struggle so hard for representation, Nathan Chasing Horse is not who we should be known for,” she told The Daily Beast. “It’s unfortunate that it’s this that is making headlines.”
Danger was also eager to emphasize that Chasing Horse’s life in Las Vegas made it easier for him to avoid oversight by tribal members. He has not lived in the community since 2021 and, Danger said, “I doubt that he’ll ever be welcomed back.”
And with that, she remains hopeful Chasing Horse will not remain the focus for too much longer.
“I want people to walk away from this story knowing that this is not all we are,” Danger said. “We are so many different and wonderful and amazing things, and it is my hope going forward that those things will be platformed more than Nathan Chasing Horse.”