WOODLAND, Calif. ? A man claiming to be a Northern Cheyenne spiritual leader, who has recently offered American Indian religious services, was convicted on eight felony counts in the Yolo County Superior Court.
Nathan Deon Cagle, 49, also known as Windwalker, could face up to nine years in prison after being convicted of grand theft, theft by false pretenses, extortion, stalking, embezzlement and possession of a check with intent to defraud.
Cagle, who had previously spent time in prison on drug related charges, had been advertising himself as a Northern Cheyenne "Shaman" and artist. He gave lectures at local elementary schools and held workshops for local scouting troops.
This case began when Cagle became romantically involved with a local Woodland business owner Carol Weinmann, who owned a shop specializing in stained glass. Weinmann said she became involved with Cagle in April 1997 and had not realized that there was trouble until about a year later.
Weinmann said that she helped Cagle start an auto detailing business and he frequently worked for her. She began to notice that money was missing and was puzzled why her store suddenly had a difficult time paying bills when sales had not significantly decreased.
"One night he came into the store and cleaned me out. One of the neighbors saw his car parked in front around midnight and the next day I was totally cleaned out," said Weinmann.
It was shortly after her relationship with Cagle ended that Weinamann began to suspect Cagle of wrongdoing. Weinmann said that Cagle came to her store and threatened to burn it down if she did not keep him on the payroll. Shortly after she began to see Cagle everywhere she went about town.
Meanwhile, Cagle had become romantically involved with another Woodland business owner who asked that her name not be used. The woman's current fianc?, Blake Wideman, a former fraud investigator for the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, claimed that Cagle used similar tactics against his fianc?e.
Wideman began his own investigation into Cagle's background after becoming subsequently involved with the second victim. Among Wideman's allegations was that Cagle was charging significant fees for supposed religious services, including 0 sweat lodge ceremonies and 0 "vision quests."
A recently defunct website confirmed that these services were offered, but make no specific references to fees. The site also includes a litany of services offered personally by Cagle, including a "Rites of Passage Program," a "Pipe Ceremony" and his artistic wares. He sold his goods to various Northern California shops specializing in American Indian art.
Additionally, Cagle would also claim to be part Scottish and would also give lectures at various institutions throughout the state on the Scottish-Indian connection. Wideman said that an investigation into Cagle's family tree through the Mormon Church revealed no Cheyenne or Scottish ancestry.
"The nearest I can tell is that he
(Cagle) is of German and English decent. None of the names that he claimed to have in his background appeared on any genealogical records," said Wideman, who also furnished a copy of Cagle's family history to Indian Country Today.
Cagle claims to have derived his lineage from the Northern Cheyenne Bigback family and claims to have learned his spiritual trade from Northern Cheyenne tribal member Gloria Bigback.
A letter from the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council obtained by Indian Country Today and signed by three tribal council members, said that Cagle is in no way associated with the tribe and that, though Gloria Bigback is a tribal member, she does not have spiritual or religious authority.
The letter further stated that the Northern Cheyenne do not use the term "shaman" when referring to their religious leaders, a term Cagle often employed to describe himself. Calls to the Northern Cheyenne headquarters in Lame Deer, Mont. confirmed the contents of the letter, though attempts to reach Bigback were unsuccessful.
In his defense, Cagle said that he is the victim of a conspiracy resulting from bitterness on the part of the two businesswomen because he ended the romantic relationships with them. He also said the women and Wideman are motivated by fundamentalist Christianity and take exception to his teaching American Indian spiritual beliefs. In regard to the stalking charge, Cagle insisted that he only ran into Weinmann in the grocery store by accident only one time.
Cagle said he never charged money for his spiritual services and says that he never made much money at all even from his art. He insisted that Bigback is a qualified spiritual teacher and calls the charges that he has falsified his ancestry "ludicrous" and claims to have done his own research through the Mormon Church.
"I can't believe that they are trying to take away my ancestry now. I mean it isn't enough for these people that I already have to go to jail on their ridiculous charges, they are trying to destroy me," said Cagle.
It was while he was serving his prison term, claims Cagle, that he was put in touch with his ancestry and it was through American Indian spirituality that he says he was able to redeem himself.
Cagle said that his recently married wife, a schoolteacher, has been harassed by Wideman and Weinmann and said they have called the school that she works at trying to discredit her. When asked why he thought he was convicted on eight felony counts, Cagle said that the prosecution managed to use the intimidation of a strong Indian man against the jury and insists that he will win on appeal.
Weinmann and Wideman, however, charged that Cagle is a chronic liar. They said that religion has played no part in it and Weinmann and accused Cagle of teaching a false sense of American Indian religion and spirituality.
Cagle has a 29-year criminal history that began when he was caught in a Fairfield, Calif. drug sting in 1972. He also served a five-year sentence in the early 1990s, again on drug charges. Yolo County Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven, who prosecuted the case, said Cagle will be sentenced on Feb. 20 and faces the possibly of an increased sentence because of his previous criminal record.