The 65-year-old chief of Little Grand Rapids First Nation has been charged with luring and sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl.
Raymond Keeper faces eight charges, including sexual assault with a weapon, RCMP said in a news release Friday. Investigators believe there are additional victims, it said.
Mounties in the fly-in reserve about 265 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg received a report of inappropriate text messages exchanged between a teen and an older man on Sept. 23.
An investigation was launched involving the local RCMP detachment, the Internet Child Exploitation Unit and Major Crime Services and Keeper was arrested Thursday in the community and released pending a court appearance on Nov. 21.
He has been charged with luring a person under 18, two counts of sexual assault, sexual assault with weapon, careless storage of a restricted weapon, possessing a restricted weapon without a licence and possession of a weapon obtained by the commission of an offence.
"Investigators believe there are more victims," RCMP spokesman Robert Cyrenne wrote in an email. "Raymond Keeper was known to frequent Winnipeg as well as Little Grand Rapids."
Keeper was among those flown out of the northern community this summer as wildfires raged. The Free Press spoke with him in July while evacuees stayed in Winnipeg hotels.
The First Nation has a population of about 1,400 living on the reserve.
Little Grand Rapids residents remained in Winnipeg until October while Manitoba Hydro was restoring power on the First Nation after fire damaged lines.
News of charges against Keeper have circulated through Little Grand Rapids via Facebook.
"Our other leaders should actually be doing something about it to remove him from this position," said one community member who wished to remain anonymous.
"It's a bad example for the community and for the younger generation."
The community has an election scheduled for November. Keeper was seeking re-election, but it’s unclear whether he’ll continue.
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs declined a request for comment.
Neither Keeper nor Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs' Organization — which represents Little Grand Rapids — responded to Free Press phone calls and messages.
One Little Grand Rapids resident said he was "stunned" to learn of the charges.
"I didn't think I'd hear anything like that," he said. "If it's all false, it's false — we don't know yet."
He said Keeper is a good chief who has helped the First Nation financially.
RCMP are asking people with information to call the Little Grand Rapids detachment at 204-397-2249.
Klinic Community Health can receive third-party reports from survivors of sexual assault 16 years and older in Manitoba.
Third-party reporting enables sexual assault victims to provide information to police without directly speaking with them. The complainant completes a form with the support of a crisis worker, and the information is sent to police without identifying information. Klinic’s 24-7 crisis line is 204-786-8631 or toll free at 1-888-292-7565.