* Remembering Marcus "Chipmunk" Baker
A small collection of photos of our friend from his BFC family. Click photos for larger images, and if you have any you'd like to share, please send them along!
Marcus Calvin Baker, 1975-2015
As though a star suddenly dropped out of Orion’s belt, or spring passed without the birth of new buffalo, or bread was suddenly outlawed from the cabin, our family has lost a constant, a person by whom we measured ourselves and gauged our level of dedication and energy.
Marcus Calvin Baker was born in 1975 and grew up in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, in the city of Winston-Salem. While this writer possesses little information about his early endeavors, one fact stands uncontested: He played the trombone.
On leaving his native Southeastern mixed forests in the early 1990s, Marcus managed to reach the evergreens of Oregon, where he cut his teeth as a tree-sitter, gaining the skills of an expert climber and ruckus-maker. His boundless energy and dedication to environmental and social justice then led him to work with Seeds of Peace, traveling throughout the Northwest and Southwest to provide logistical and culinary support to campaigns of all stripes. He lent his energy to the annual Peace Camp at the Nevada Nuclear Test site outside Las Vegas, as well as to supporting Dineh elders in maintaining their traditional ways of life on Black Mesa in Arizona. His affiliation with Seeds varied in intensity but continued through the years. And you should have tasted his pulled roadkill deer tacos.
The existential threats facing the largest contiguous roadless area in the country drew him to Idaho, where his relentless energy and ingenuity were a great benefit to the Cove-Mallard and Otter Wing struggles. According to one fellow activist, Marcus executed, “incredible feats of defiance in the Otter Wing tree-sits, which often involved more than eight miles of bushwhacking into the woods with insanely heavy supplies, in order to stop the original construction of the road into that pristine area. He always showed concern and love for the people who joined the fight with him while at the same time demonstrating empathy for the people who were just trying to work in the woods and support their families.”
The exact origin of his moniker, “Chipmunk,” is the subject of some controversy. It’s been said he earned the name in Oregon due to his tendency to leave caches of food, gear and other useful items hidden throughout his habitat. He once told me that the name referred to his ability to subsist entirely on a diet of nuts and seeds, which I found highly suspect, given the massive amounts of elk, deer, trout, salmon and grouse I’d watched him consume. Or maybe it was something about those front teeth of his? As we struggle to nail down a precise answer, I can almost hear his lilting counsel: “Hard tellin’, not knowin’.”
One of the epic tales that arose from the Idaho forest protection campaigns involved the “Night of the Living Redneck,” wherein drunken, enraged, and armed locals attacked camp. Along with several other forest defenders, Chipmunk spent the night hiding from the belligerent and destructive posse as they spent hours burning camp to the ground and firing shots into the trees. Amazing as it was that no one was injured or killed, the night seemed to highlight the tension between human economic interest and ecological preservation. And also the powerful effects of whiskey and Budweiser.
During his time with Seeds of Peace, Marcus learned about the work of Buffalo Field Campaign in West Yellowstone, Montana, where the last wild, free-roaming family of buffalo remains under persistent threat. He traveled here and set down the tiny rootlings that would expand over the next two decades to define his life. Again, he was an enthusiastic, if often curmudgeonly, cornerstone of the campaign, helping the endeavor to maintain a consistent and responsive form in spite of a highly itinerant population. From providing hundreds of pounds of wild fish and game to sawing and bucking cords upon cords of firewood to fastidiously maintaining a sprawling network of shoveled trails through the deep snow around the cabin, Marcus often worked behind the scenes to ensure that other people could effectively go about their work. And then he’d suddenly be right in front of the scenes, loudly engaging Department of Livestock officers with the kind of high-spirited verbal antagonism that typically built up the joy and courage of his mates while steadily grinding down the value of that government paycheck. A tripod village, a Bozeman jail hunger strike, sleeping dragons, and all-night ski patrols: these were among the myriad ways he gave his life energy to the buffalo. And then there was that time a “found” government radio spent the entire day broadcasting the Grateful Dead to agents throughout the field, but who knows if he had anything to do with that.
I met Marcus in December 1999, on my first day at the cabin, when he burst into the meeting looking for people to help get a campaigner’s rig out of a ditch. I recall being simultaneously terrified and drawn to this wild-eyed and –bearded manbeast, and went along for the ride in the Ram Charger. He didn’t say much as we sped over the icy roads, aside from belly-laughing at me for calling Montana Highway Patrol “CHP.” Rather, he emanated a sense of both guarded optimism and deep acceptance that was remarkably reassuring. He could do that so well with his friends and struggle-mates; he could inject a sense of heartening calm into what were often disastrously grim realizations about the world, all from behind roughly sixty cubic inches of facial hair. He helped us stare directly into the most repugnant aspects of our culture and laugh, cry, shake our heads and begin to take action. He returned to Hebgen Lake regularly throughout the years, resolute in his support of the Yellowstone herd of both buffalo and the people who love them.
In 2003, after a year-long process of meetings and land hunting that incorporated 19 people at its peak, Marcus joined together with seven others from BFC to secure a 45-acre plot on the banks of Curley Creek in Montana’s Lincoln County. He lived on that land on and off over the years, and performed a great deal of labor with the community. His skills were critical in the construction of the communal straw-bale house, the yurt shop, the slab-wood fence that protects the garden meadow, and in many other projects. Curley Creek has served as a home base for many people over the years and continues to host traveling farmhands and other friends who seek the solitude and peace of the lower Yaak Valley area. This was the place Marcus called home in these final years, where he carved a niche for himself of caring relationships and work he valued.
But a celebration of Marcus mustn’t simply be a recounting of the places and pursuits that guided his growth; it must include something of the man himself. He was a lover of the men and women in his life, a fierce ally and an unswerving supporter of his causes. Deep respect for a hard day’s work was in his marrow, and he often seemed happiest as a bone-tired, limping husk of a body, contented blissful Buddha smile on his lips, eyes half-open as he staggered toward the crummy, the meal tent, the bar. He loved to be a disruption, his deep baritone rumbling its way through any conversation, his convulsive gut laugh daring you not to join in. He rode bikes until they were broken, then found other ones. He cleaned the dishes, sharpened all the knives, set the house up for the party, and was the last person standing. He painted toenails, fingernails, framing nails. Red robe, heavy black boots, stained white undershirt, suspenders. He loved music all along the spectrum, from Johnny Cash to Japanther, but his lavender bubble bath candle time was reserved for Norah Jones.
There were so many people and places touched by this man that some will necessarily be left out of this account. He was simply too expansive, his chapters too numerous, his relationships too intricate, his complexity too great.
Marcus, we did not have enough of you; we needed more. As you move apart from us now, it’s tempting to forget the difficult parts. No one is free of them. You were brash, you were addicted, you said things you could’ve reconsidered, you struggled to manage your broken heart, you made a terrible decision at the end. These hard parts made many of us feel the love we had for you even more deeply. As we wish you a thousand joys on this next leg of your journey, there’s an acknowledgement of the painful ways your path reflects ours back at us. You taught us to speak up out of care more often, to reach out instead of taking each others' presence for granted, and to appreciate the whole package of this life: the good, the bad, all of it. You are our teacher, our loved one, our friend, our fighter, our shadow. May your fire continue to burn us like capsicum, training us away from complacency and inspiring us to carry on where you had to leave off.
We love you, Marcus, and we will keep talking with you.
*BFC's Road Show Underway! Pearl Jam's Jeff Ament Joins BFC Crew at Ten Club Event!
Good friends, good times, all for the buffalo on BFC's 2015 West Coast Road Show. Left from right: Pearl Jam's Jeff Ament, Mike Mease and Ken Cole; Goodshield Aguilar, Mike, Mignon, and Sam; Mike, Ken, and Pearl Jam Ten Club's Tim Bierman.
BFC was honored to have one of our events again hosted by Pearl Jam’s fan club, Ten Club. This is always a huge treat for us, but it got even better this time: Pearl Jam’s bass player, Jeff Ament made a showing and hung out with our Road Show crew. There’s no shortage of Pearl Jam fans at Buffalo Field Campaign, and we’re so glad that some of the hard core Pearl Jam fans got to have this experience. Thank you Jeff for your many years of support, and for your awesome music! Many thanks to Tim of the Ten Club for pulling this event together. We love you guys! Check out below to learn where the BFC Road Show is heading next! Join us in a town near you!
Click the road show poster image to view the schedule and download posters you can distribute in your community! Poster design by BFC's Cindy Rosin.
BFC has been on the West Coast since September 12, and will travel through October 10, building awareness about the needs of our native bison through presentations and concerts in many west coast communities. Please check out the schedule at buffalofieldcampaign.org/aboutus/roadshow2015.html or click the poster image above.
Mike Mease will be joined by the incredible musicians and eco-warriors, Goodshield Aguilar and Mignon Geli. Join this amazing trio for music and stories from the front lines. These buffalo warriors will inspire you to take action on behalf of America’s last wild, migratory buffalo. This year we're honored to be doing events with Pearl Jam and John Trudell, and there may be a few more surprises along the way, so please join us in a town near you!
Check the schedule and download posters that you can distribute in your community HERE.
* Stand With the Buffalo! Front Lines Volunteers Needed for Coming Field Season!
BFC patrols look for buffalo in the Gardiner Basin. You, too, can join us on the front lines. We need you! Photo by Stephany Seay, BFC. Click for larger image.
Buffalo Field Campaign has seasonal openings for field volunteers. We have opportunities for every season, but are in great need of folks during our field season which runs from November through May. This is the time of year when wild bison are migrating into Montana and facing death and harassment. Any buffalo within Montana's borders is in danger of being shot on sight, hazed, or captured and shipped to the slaughterhouse. All volunteers are provided room, board, gear, and training in exchange for staffing our field patrols. We cater to most any dietary need. We are located in a warm log cabin by beautiful Hebgen Lake, just a few miles outside of West Yellowstone, Montana, and we also run a camp north of Yellowstone, in the Gardiner Basin. Click on the button above or HERE to learn more and make your plans. See you on the front lines!
* TAKE ACTION! Endless Pressure, Endlessly Applied
One of the many tools we use to affect change is pressuring decision-makers to do the right thing. Below are two new Take Action items, as well as an ongoing one that still needs everyone’s attention.
1.Submit Letters to the Editor in support of BFC's alternative to “Manage Wild Bison Like Wild Elk in Montana,” the only alternative that respects wild buffalo and their right to roam their home.
2.Help change the status quo for wild buffalo by urging your members of Congress to support BFC’s alternative to “Manage Wild Bison Like Wild Elk in Montana."
3.Montana Governor Steve Bullock needs to feel the pressure from everyone who cares about wild, migratory buffalo, enough pressure that he has no other choice than to help repeal MCA 81-2-120, the law that is driving the nefarious actions against America's last wild buffalo. Please contact Governor Bullock today, and everyday, demanding he change the status quo for wild bison in Montana by repealing MCA 81-2-120 and rejecting the government's alternatives in the newly proposed Montana-Yellowstone Bison Management Plan.
* LISTEN: BFC and WildLands Defense Colorado on Make No Bones About It
Buffalo and prairie dogs *are* the prairie and they belong on the landscape together, wild and free. We are working towards that goal. Photos by Stephany Seay and Deanna Meyer, respectively. Click for larger images.
LISTEN to the interview!
Raven Redbone’s Make No Bones About It radio program hosted BFC’s Mike Mease and Stephany Seay, along with Deanna Meyer of Deep Green Resistance and WildLands Defense Colorado. Stephany was visiting with Deanna where the surviving Castle Rock prairie dogs now call home, and we surprised Mike by calling in to the program as he kicked off the West Coast Road Show. We talked about the issues that both wild buffalo and prairie dogs are facing, and some of the things we need to do to help them. Buffalo and prairie dogs have a symbiotic relationship, yet in the wild they are absent from each other and the landscape that they once — and will again — share. Solidarity is critical if we are to weave this wild tapestry back together. The sound is challenging at times, but the message is worth the listen. Big thanks to Buffalo Field Campaign, WildLands Defense Colorado, Deep Green Resistance, and Raven Redbone of Make No Bones About It. SOLIDARITY FOR THE WILD!
* Spread the Word for the Herds! Distribute BFC Newsletters in Your Community
Help spread the word to save the herds! If you would like us to send you a stack of newsletters to place around your community, Tara can help you with that, too. We love that we have supporters who are willing to distribute our annual newsletter, spreading the word to save the herds is one of our main tenets and we are thrilled to have so many volunteers! Shipping can be costly, so please let Tara know an exact number that you feel you are able to distribute and she will happily get them to you ASAP!
If your address has changed, or if you are new and would like to be added to our mailing list,
please contact Tara at email@example.com.
* Thanks for Helping Us Get a New Chainsaw!
We received a check for $700 from Katie M. Brophy in response to our plea for a chainsaw. Thanks, Katie!
*By the Numbers
The last wild, migratory buffalo populations are currently estimated at fewer than 4,200 individual animals, living in and around Yellowstone National Park. Wild, migratory bison are ecologically extinct throughout their native range in North America.
Total Buffalo Killed: 740
Government Capture: 507
Buffalo Released from Capture: 0
Tribal - ITBC & CSKT Slaughter: 507
Died in Government Trap: 4
Died in Government Research Facility**:
Miscarriage in Government Trap:
State Hunt: 41
State Damage Hunts: 4
Treaty Hunts: 172
Poached in Yellowstone:
Sent to Quarantine:
Sent to APHIS Research Facility: 7
Shot by Agents:
Shot by Landowner:
Shot by Idaho: 1
Highway Mortality: 4
Cause of Death Unknown:
Total Killed in Previous Years*
Total Killed Since 2000: 5,647
* includes lethal government action, trap-related fatalities, quarantine/experiments, hunts, and highway deaths
** bison stolen from the wild and placed in APHIS research facilities (such as for GonaCon) have already been counted as being "eliminated from the population" so bison that have died in a government research facility are not reflected in the total.
* Last Words of Buffalo Inspiration ~ Corey Sundog Mascio
It’s 38 below
And our eyelashes
Out on patrol
For the buffalo
And each other
Top of Horse Butte
Gail force winds
We only had each other
Out on patrol
For the buffalo
And each other
We were lost souls
None other than
The White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman
And her sacred women
And warrior ways
Out on patrol
For the buffalo
And each other
For wounded veterans
Is our only safe place
Remember we BFCers
Out on patrol
For the buffalo
And each other”
~ Corey Sundog Mascio, Buffalo Field Campaign & Pte Oyate