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Water Protectors Rattler and Dion Ortiz serving their sentence at Sandstone federal prison




Rattler (Michael Markus) is Oglala Lakota from Pine Ridge, SD. He is a descendant of the war chief Makpiya Luta, translated as Red Cloud. Rattler's Lakota name is Mato Tanka, meaning Big Bear. He is a Sundancer and Canupa (sacred pipe) carrier.

Rattler arrived at the Oceti Sakowin resistance camp as a Water Protector in September 2016. On January 23, 2017 Rattler was charged for the work he engaged in as Akicita to protect Land, Water, People, and Treaties against militarized police and mercenaries working for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). DAPL was illegally constructed to go through the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota, despite the damage done to sacred sites, Lakota burial sites, Treaty lands of multiple indigenous Nations, risk to the Lakota living on the reservation, and numerous violations of human and environmental rights. He was charged with Civil Disorder, a charge that has only been applied for movement work such as the American Indian Movement, Black Liberation Movement, Vietnam protests, and to these 7 Water Protectors, as well as Using Fire to Commit a Felony, a federal charge that most attorneys don't know is on the books.

On October 27th, 2016 militarized police illegally raided 1851 Treaty Camp, which had gained more numbers of water protectors to block the progression of DAPL from going across Highway 1806. Barricades were lit on HW 1806 and the 134 bridge to keep the militarized police from further endangering our unarmed encampment as police had done for previous months. The only thing lit on 134 bridge were logs; no property damage occurred there. Logs, hay, and scrap wood were used as a barricade alongside donated vehicles on HW 1806. No violence was inflicted on law enforcement in either location. The courts refused to grant Rattler and 5 other water protectors a change of venue to have trial outside of Bismarck, ND despite statistics given to the judge proving the majority of the local population already considered them to be guilty before trial even began. Rattler, Little Feather (Michael Giron, Akicita), Bravo (Brennan Nastacio), Angry Bird (Jimmy White, Akicita) and Dion Ortiz were all given the same charges, facing 15+ years in federal prison. Little Feather and Rattler chose the better of two evils: a non-cooperating plea deal (as in no cooperation with feds). Both received 3 years for nonviolent conduct as Water Protectors keeping our people safe from violence, and stopping further desecration of land and water. RedFawn Fallis also took a non-cooperating plea deal of five years for a gun planted on her by an informant on Oct. 27th. Angry Bird and Dion have also accepted non-cooperating plea deals for their work on Oct. 27th. 

Akicita is a traditional role among the Lakota Nation. Akicita is a life commitment, living a life of service and accountability. Akicita are the last to inflict violence, but they are the last to leave a battle. Akicita leave no one behind. We must not let the sacrifices of these water protectors be in vain. We thank all those around the world that committed themselves to be in the NoDAPL camps with us long term, and we thank all those that continue to support water protectors as the movement goes on into federal prisons.


Aho Mitaquye Oyasin


Videos from camp:

"This is a non-cooperating agreement relating only to Rattler’s own actions and that does not require any testimony or information about anyone else.":

"The plea agreements that WPLC (Water Protector Legal Collective) has worked to make available to Water Protectors with charges from Standing Rock are all “non-cooperating” agreements. This means they do not require snitching or giving any testimony, evidence or other information to be used against someone else. In the state cases, they also are all offers that involve no additional jail time. (Please see our Water Protector Prisoners page for information about the federal plea agreements that will involve substantial prison time.)

WPLC is not aware of any deal being offered or accepted in any Standing Rock case that would require cooperation with the state or federal government to harm any other Water Protector." :

"Anathema" Anarchist Periodical from Lenape ancestral lands (Philly); interview with Rattler while in lock up: 


Indigenous People's Day NoDAPL; October 10, 2016

September 2016 NoDAPL (Photo Credit New York Times)

Mahpiya Luta; Chief Red Cloud

Mato Tanka; Big Bear. Rattler. Michael Markus.

HW 1806. NoDAPL Camps. (Photo Credit Tom Jefferson)

Rattler's hand made breast plate to honor 300+ Water Protectors, medics and Akicita injured from militant police November 20, 2016 near Oceti Sakowin camp. 

A very rare moment in lock up: Rattler and other native brothers had one day out the whole year they get to sing at the drum, and a select few dance. There's so much struggle behind bars, but these moments of unity defy division, institutionalization, danger, and dehumanization.

Rattler's statement regarding his bead art December 2019 (upside down flag): "A nation in distress ignored by the nation that they [veterans] served...The blue on the center shell is for the Water we are fighting to protect. Red is for the blood that was shed overseas for a government that ignores us, and for the blood shed [in the NoDAPL camps] by police working for the oil company."