Happy Earth Day! It’s appropriate that, on this day of reverence for Unci Maka, we celebrate the imminent return of one of her guardians. After many months in prison for his brave stand against the Dakota Access pipeline, Michael “Rattler” Markus is coming home! I hope you’ll join me in giving thanks to Rattler and to all those on the frontlines to defend sacred lands and water.
Watch: Our water protector matriarch, Phyllis Young, helps welcome Rattler back to freedom, including a brief interview and drum ceremony for him.
Rattler, who served during the NoDAPL protests as an Akicita (defender), positioned between police and water protectors to keep everybody safe, was arrested in February of 2017. He subsequently accepted a plea to a civil disorder charge stemming from his presence on Oct. 27, 2016 — when law enforcement assaulted unarmed water protectors with sound cannons, tasers, bean bags, rubber bullets, and pepper spray.
We have seen these tactics time and again — and we have seen how the colonizers use both the police and new legislation to back up their intrusions into our sacred lands. Following a year in which people all over the world stood together in the streets to promote justice, many lawmakers are now renewing their attacks on our ability to protest.
According to the International Center for Not-For-Profit Law, 71 laws currently pending at the federal or state level — in 29 different states! — seek to limit our right to protest. It is critical that we retain our right to protect the Earth from corporations who ramrod noxious extraction infrastructure like pipelines through our homelands and other communities of color.
I’m grateful to those who served time for their bold actions on behalf of Unci Maka — people like Red Fawn, who came home after years of incarceration a few weeks ago, and Rattler, who will be released from federal custody tomorrow.
You have my gratitude as well. Thank you for standing with all of us on the frontlines. The powers that be can keep trying to divide, conquer, and subjugate us, but we’ll stay informed and active until we achieve the justice we seek — for ourselves and for the world we inhabit.
Wopila tanka — thank you, always, for your solidarity with our movement.
Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project