Charles Chipps, 67, was a renowned healer in the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota. He is now awaiting trial on 15 counts of rape, sexual abuse and intimidation of six minors.
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.