Chickasaw Nation school Challenge Bowl team takes top honors
TERRAL, Okla. – One mile north of the Red River in the Chickasaw Nation, this small western Oklahoma community’s students own bragging rights to a statewide competition.
On March 3, the Terral Indians claimed top prize in the Oklahoma Council of Indian Education Challenge Bowl.
It marks the third year in a row Terral Middle School students have won the state championship.
Life in western Oklahoma is rural. Here, cattle and agriculture are paramount. The nearest Walmart is 50 miles away in Wichita Falls, Texas. Terral is so small, when students finish eighth grade, many enter Ryan Public Schools – about a nine-mile trip – to complete high school.
“We are incredibly proud of our students,” Terral instructor Buddy White said. “Their dedication and the work they put forth to prepare for this competition was remarkable. We’re just a little ol’ community of about 300 people out here, but we’ve got a big target on our backs because of our success.”
The challenge bowl is designed to ignite curiosity and knowledge concerning all 566 federally-recognized tribes. Special emphasis is given to Oklahoma’s 39 tribal governments.
Students must know the leader of each tribe, where the tribe is headquartered, names of princesses for each tribe, clothing heritage and symbolism, along with hundreds of other facts. This year, students were expected to spell the name of many tribes as well as understand tribal heritage of noted Native Americans such as Jim Thorpe (Sac and Fox) and Maria Tallchief (Osage).
This year’s Terral team was comprised of five members with Indian heritage. Four are seasoned competitors. They included eighth graders Tawny Vanover, who has competed all three years. Daniel Alsup and Kaleb Allen are also in the eighth grade and have competed two years. The seventh graders are Westin Jennings, a two-year veteran, and Danny Mayhew, who competed for the first time this year.
Terral School Superintendent and Chickasaw citizen Greg Fouse gave each student a big hug following the victory.
“We are so proud of this team,” Mr. Fouse said. “It is such an honor to win three Challenge Bowl trophies and be undefeated on a state level. We also have won several competitions involving only the Chickasaw Nation.”
“I pushed these kids to the max but they were up for it,” Mr. White said. “Most schools have a regular class for (Indian education) but we just don’t have those resources. Our team meets one hour after school Monday through Friday.
“We go online, we research our topics for information to study. Everybody wants to beat us.” Mr. White said laughing. “Everybody is gunning for us.”
The state competition was hosted by the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, Okla. Seventeen high schools and 12 middle schools competed.
Terral was undefeated going into the final match of the day. They defeated Beggs 160-110 to claim first place in the double-elimination challenge bowl.
“These kids are exceptionally talented and work very, very hard for me,” Mr. White said. “They are gifted. We are proud they represent us,” Mr. White said.