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Big Cypress challenge promotes health, culture

Tauni Cypress competes in the gator pull. (Photo Damon Scott)

BIG CYPRESS – The Big Cypress Reservation was the setting Dec. 10 for an inaugural strength challenge. Quenton Cypress, the Seminole Tribe’s community engagement manager at the Heritage and Environment Resources Office (HERO), organized the event.

Several tribal members and their friends competed in front of supporters on a course staged adjacent to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum’s parking lot. Assisting Cypress was Tylor Tigertail, HERO’s community engagement coordinator, and members of the Big Cypress Recreation Department.

Cypress said he’d been thinking about putting on the event for a few years.

“I wanted to promote physical health and awareness,” Cypress said. “But also promote Seminole culture.”

He said the challenge was created in the “Strongman-style,” which has origins in Scotland. Strongman challenges are typically unconventional in nature. For example, instead of lifting a heavy barbell, a competitor is tasked with lifting a stone or log.

Cypress does physical training with the Big Cypress Recreation Department and has previously competed in Strongman and Ironman competitions.

Cypress’ challenges were intended to mimic activities in traditional Seminole culture. The competition included the gator pull – large ropes attached to a metal sled; and the chickee build, where competitors used a hammer to hit an oversized tire. Other events included the deer run and water bucket carry.

Cypress wants to make the event an annual one and said he’d like to see more participation by tribal members next year.

The To-Pee-Kee-Ke Yak-Ne Community Center sponsored the event. Competitors received medals, cash prizes and were entered into raffles.

Michael DiCarlo, left, and Brandon Jones won first place in their age category. (Courtesy Tylor Tigertail)
Tauni Cypress, left, and Cyiah Avila won first place in their age category. (Courtesy Tylor Tigertail)
From left to right in the back row are Quenton Cypress, Clinton Billie, Dalton Koenes, Tauni Cypress, Cyiah Avila, Michael DiCarlo, RickyJoe Alumbaugh, Keithana Osceola, Aimee Osceola-Jones, Brandon Jones and Alvin Buster. Lying on the ground are Vanessa Osceola, left, and Jessica Osceola. (Courtesy Tylor Tigertail)
Aimee Osceola-Jones, left, and Jessica Osceola won first place in their age category. (Courtesy Tyler Tigertail)
Clinton Billie, left, and Alvin Buster won second place in their age category. (Courtesy Tyler Tigertail)
Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at