Native American medicine man 'sexually abused girls during spiritual ceremonies in traditional reservation sweat lodges'

Medicine man Charles Chipps Sr, 67

Medicine man Charles Chipps Sr, 67, is facing life in prison for allegedly raping and sexually abusing girls during spiritual ceremonies in South Dakota

A Native American medicine man is facing trial after he allegedly raped and sexually abused children on a remote reservation.

Charles Chipps Sr, 67, was known as a skilled healer in the Oglala Lakota tribe on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota. 

He is now being held in federal prison in Missouri awaiting trial on 15 counts of rape, sexual abuse and intimidation of six minors, some as young as five years old. 

He faces life in prison and a fine of $250,000, according to an FBI statement last year.

According to The Washington Post, Chipps' alleged victims were abused while he performed spiritual ceremonies in traditional sweat lodges. 

On his remote family compound, eight miles from the tiny village of Wanblee, Chipps allegedly forced girls to undress in the dark huts and abused them, according to court documents.

The Sweat Lodge - typically made of young tree branches lashed together and covered with hideskins over  a fire in the center - is a place where tribe members go for mental and physical healing and to seek answers for spiritual questions. Some adults would bring their children to Chipps because of his skills in tribal traditions.

At a hearing to determine whether Chipps should be jailed prior to trial, forensic interviewer, Hollie Strand, for the Child Advocacy Center took the stand in 2013.

According to The Post, she said Chipps allegedly forced one child to kiss him and another perform to oral sex - before clicking his fingers and forcing them to trade places. 

He would make young girls watch while he had sex with others, according to Ms Strand's testimony.

According to tribe members, one girl who was brought to meet Chipps committed suicide following the alleged abuse, while another female relative has attempted to take her own life. 

Although several relatives spoke before the court in his favor, a judge jailed Chipps, pending trial.
Chipps had been originally arrested in 2009 following multiple reports of sexual assault from children made to the tribe's social services agency between 2002 and 2007. 

It wasn't until one of Chipps' sons told a tribal police officer what he believed was going on because he feared for his own children. 

Some of the children in the compound were placed with social services and other family members while Chipps was arrested.

Chipps' sister-in-law, Lena Chipps, told The Washington Post that she was horrified when she found out he had allegedly been preying on young members of the tribe. 

'When I first found out about Charles, I wanted to get a gun and go shoot him,' she said.

However after a year in jail he was freed because the U.S. attorney’s office for South Dakota did not have enough evidence to bring charges. 

U.S. attorney Brendan V. Johnson, who prosecuted the case, described the difficulties of rooting out sexual predators in Native American communities.

He told The Post: 'Victims are placed under tremendous pressure by family members and friends to recant their stories.' 

The population who live on the Pine Ridge reservation, which sits in the Badlands National Park, has one of the shortest life expectancies in the West - 47 years for men and 52 years for women.
Infant mortality rate is five times the U.S. average, and teen suicide is four times higher, according to figures. The reservation also deals with crippling rates of poverty and alcoholism. Problems with alcohol are estimated to affect 85 per cent of families and attribute to 90 per cent of crimes in the isolated area.   

Chipps remained free until 2013 - until a 13-year-old girl told a school counselor that she had been sexually abused since the age of five.

With the new allegations, along with the accusations of other young people, the District Attorney's office along with the FBI, moved in on Chipps.

On July 16, 2013, U.S. Attorney Johnson announced that Chipps was indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly sexually abusing and intimidating members of his family between 2006 and 2010. 

Chipps was indicted for seven counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a minor, three counts of abusive sexual contact of a minor, three counts of aggravated incest, and two counts of witness intimidation.

Older victims and some from other states have also come forward, The Washington Post reported. 

The 67-year-old has pleaded not guilty to the charges and his lawyer, Terry L. Pechota, has said he is not well enough to stand trial and is 'unable to recall things of the past', according to a court filing. 

The investigation is ongoing and involves the FBI, the Bureau of Indian Affairs-Office of Justice Services, and the Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety.  

Leviticus 18: 

1 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am the Lord your God.

3 After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances.

4 Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the Lord your God.

5 Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the Lord.

6 None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the Lord.

7 The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.

8 The nakedness of thy father's wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father's nakedness.

9 The nakedness of thy sister, the daughter of thy father, or daughter of thy mother, whether she be born at home, or born abroad, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover.

10 The nakedness of thy son's daughter, or of thy daughter's daughter, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover: for theirs is thine own nakedness.

11 The nakedness of thy father's wife's daughter, begotten of thy father, she is thy sister, thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.

12 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's sister: she is thy father's near kinswoman.

13 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother's sister: for she is thy mother's near kinswoman.

14 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's brother, thou shalt not approach to his wife: she is thine aunt.

15 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy daughter in law: she is thy son's wife; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.

16 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother's wife: it is thy brother's nakedness.

17 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou take her son's daughter, or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they are her near kinswomen: it is wickedness.

18 Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.

19 Also thou shalt not approach unto a woman to uncover her nakedness, as long as she is put apart for her uncleanness.

20 Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour's wife, to defile thyself with her.

21 And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the Lord.

22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

23 Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion.

24 Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you:

25 And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.