Two women allege sex assaults by Indian Horse actor William Strongheart - APTN NewsAPTN News

Two women allege sex assaults by Indian Horse actor William Strongheart

(William Strongheart plays ‘Virgil’ in the movie, Indian Horse)

Kathleen Martens

A former partner is crying foul about a mea culpa issued by Indian Horse actor William Strongheart.

“He has never personally apologized to me,” Melanie Rope said after seeing Strongheart’s statement on Facebook Sunday.

“I have tried to email him a couple of times since 2014 asking for an apology I never got.”

In a post about his “healing journey” on his Facebook page Strongheart offers “sincere apologies” to those he says he has hurt.

“To those I have wronged, and caused undo grief and anguish, I wish to extend the hope of reconciliation and healing with you,” he writes.

“Violence is wrong in every facet and violence against women – particularly Indigenous women – has been a part of our communities for far too long. I am coming forward today to acknowledge that in my past I have contributed to this issue and have caused tremendous pain and trauma to women in my life.”

Strongheart says he is making the statement in response to an online post that alleges he committed domestic violence and shows a photo of Rope with her face bruised.

Rope told APTN News she publishes the post every few months to raise awareness about domestic violence in the Indigenous community.

She thinks, with the movie coming out, the time is right for an Indigenous #MeToo Movement.

“I just feel it’s wrong for a person like Will to be representing Indigenous people in Canada and the U.S.,” she said in a telephone interview.

Rope shared legal documents with APTN showing Strongheart was convicted of assaulting her in 2010. The documents show he was sentenced to 23 months for two counts of bodily harm.

Strongheart confirms the violence in his post.

“During a dark chapter of my life I committed physical assaults against women that I knew in my heart were wrong. I am not making excuses to justify my past actions, I am sharing where I was at that point in my life – a point where I had lost control of everything including my emotions and was battling alcoholism and drug abuse,” he wrote.

Rope’s post has since been removed and her account suspended by Facebook for 30 days, she said.

She views his post as an attempt at damage control.

“I believe this is in a desperate last attempt to save his career and image. I do not believe his man was ever sorry, he wanted to hide this for years,” she said.

“Instead of taking his opportunity to privately respond to my email and apologize, he sent his lawyers after us with cease and desist letters. He is not sympathetic for his actions at all.”

Fox also received a ‘cease and desist’ letter, and shared a copy with APTN.

Strongheart is starring in the film Indian Horse, an adaptation of a best-selling novel about residential schools by the late Richard Wagamese. He did not respond to a request for an interview with APTN.

Parole board documents show Strongheart was released in 2013 with a note saying he did not complete “any domestic violence programming during this sentence.”

The documents say he was released on conditions he “report all intimate sexual and non-sexual relationships with females” to his parole supervisor and was “not allowed to take up residence with any female unless you have the approval of your parole supervisor.”

A second woman, Dee Fox, provided a statement to police in 2006 alleging that she was sexually and physically assaulted by Strongheart, but no charges were laid.

This was confirmed in the parole document that states: “These are domestic relationships and the assaults are similar in nature. A third victim has provided a statement, although no charges were pursued as the police could not contact her.”

Fox says she and Rope have become advocates for change and say #TimesUp on sexual harassment, assault and abuse, especially now that Canada is spending millions of dollars examining the factors contributing to the high number of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

“Indigenous women are the most unprotected women in Canada,” Fox said.  “Statistics show this.”

Nine per cent of indigenous women reported spousal violence in 2014. That’s more than double the number of non-indigenous people (four per cent) who reported family violence.

A 2014 report – Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview – compiled by the RCMP, shows police databases had records for 164 missing Indigenous women and 1,017 Indigenous women who had been murdered over the past 30 years.

Fox doesn’t want to discredit Wagamese or the movie. She and Rope, who met via Facebook several years ago, say they are simply using the publicity to get their message out.

“How is that OK for him to be someone to represent our stories?” Fox said.

But the third victim named in Rope’s Facebook post doesn’t agree with public naming and shaming.

“They should never use my name,” she said, noting “there are lies in this post, as well.”

However, she did not specify what was inaccurate.

The woman said she does support creating awareness, “but we have our own journeys.”

Rope said her story is a platform to help other victims of domestic violence.

“Maybe a couple times a year I’ll speak out,” she said. “He’s been able to become quite a successful person in his life regardless of the things that he’s done and it really, really bothers me.”

Meanwhile, three female producers, who are working on the film, emailed a statement to APTN in response to Rope’s Facebook post.

They “acknowledge the courage of the women who have come forward” and say they “honour and respect their voices.”

They say while making the film, they “have strived to come to terms with the injustices faced by Indigenous peoples in this country, and have opened our eyes to the vicious cycle that affects Indigenous men, women and families.”

A biography on the Indian Horse website says Strongheart began acting in 2015 in the Robert Redford TV mini-series Crazyhorse for AMC.

He is also a sometime rap musician who grew up in Saskatchewan and Kansas.



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6 Responses to “Two women allege sex assaults by Indian Horse actor William Strongheart”

    BP April 23, 2018 at 2:12 am #

    I feel bad for the women. However this went to court and the actor was charged and did time. (8-10 years ago). Since then he has quit drinking and drugs and has tried to be a good person. I’m not saying it is okay for what he did 10 years ago. My question is after someone is charged and released from jail, do we not let them work? Is the goal of the women to not let him ever work again and force him to go on welfare?

    Jocelyn April 19, 2018 at 12:31 am #

    I for one will not support this movie with so much as a google search! I am a first Nations woman and I recently suffered domestic violence as well. My ex fiancé was made out to be a good guy who just had issues he needed to heal and get help with. I am sick of people feeling remorse for these men do you think they feel any remorse for us woman they assault? And it’s usually a repeated pattern and they have done it to more than 1-2 woman. Regardless of what this movie represents for native culture anyone who works with woman beaters/abusive men do not have my support.

    Lillian April 17, 2018 at 7:00 pm #

    Yes, all of the abuse n our traumatic history is an ‘extension of Residential Schools’, you mentioned about healing n wellness journey, well these women are on their healing n wellness journeys. This actor “pissed” as you crudely stated, on their well-being n healing. We need to start n continue healing for all our ppl, no matter what gender we are. It starts with our Indigenous men to Man Up n start Protecting Indigenous Women n Become the True Real Warrior as you are all destined to be, that’s Creator’s Plan n Purpose! Guynn!

    Ernie Sandy April 17, 2018 at 12:48 pm #

    How about that? In our healing and wellness journey, we as Indigenous people bear our souls, our shame, our sense of hopelessness, the murders, the beatings, and the history of rapes by the priests and nuns, in describing what a traumatized life we had in the residential schools and the 60s Scoop, which is actually an extension of the residential schools, and along comes this woman wanting the ‘piss on’ our healing and wellness journeys.

      B D April 17, 2018 at 8:46 pm #

      You speak of our relations going through all the trauma and we as a people are on a healing journey. These ladies who are speaking out are going through their own trauma of beatings and sense of hopelessness. Most of our families have our relations that went through residential school and 60s Scoop. We know. Very disappointing that you remark that these ladies are “pissing” on that journey. What have they gone through with this man and what about other ladies who have not come forward about their beatings. You are wrong.

      Kateri April 18, 2018 at 3:43 am #

      She’s doing no such thing. She’s speaking out about the violence she endured and the man who was the perpetrator.

      Also, I am sure that not all Indigenous people agree with you nor would many of us want you speaking on behalf of us and our wellness journeys, especially in order to bash one of our women.