Hunting for history

HANCOCK – This year, the Keweenaw National Historical Park’s Local History Smackdown got a new champion to go with its new location.

Baraga High School’s History Hunters were the last team standing after eight rounds at the Finnish-American Heritage Center, giving the school its first Smackdown trophy. Their final question came in the eighth round: “The granite monument topped by a life-size soldier erected in Lake View Cemetery in 1900 commemorated local soldiers who died in two wars. Name one of them.” They correctly answered “The Civil War,” the other option being the Spanish-American War.

The other remaining teams, Moyer’s Misfits from Calumet High School and Houghton High School’s Teach Me How To Douglass Houghton, each recorded their second miss in the round, knocking them out of the competition.

The Baraga members, all freshmen, couldn’t have asked for a better Smackdown debut.

“It was so exciting,” said History Hunters member Ireland Ingram. “It was a really fun experience. The fact that we won made it even better.”

The History Hunters also had to overcome a last-minute personnel switch, swapping in alternate Teal Sackett for Jake Putala, who the others described as their MVP.

The students prepared for the competition by meeting at lunch and after-school, and looking at vocabulary sheets.

Since last year’s team was graduating, coach Michele Serafin planned ahead and brought in the then-eighth graders to replace them.

“I thought ahead, and I had them come to a few practices, and then go to Smackdown last year and check it out, and then they were excited to try it,” she said. “I recruited them. And now they’ll be around for a while.”

This was the first Smackdown to be held at the Finnish-American Heritage Center, following 10 years at the Calumet Theatre. It also marked a changeover at the top, held for the past five years by Ontonagon Area High School’s Diamond Match Devils.

To win, teams had to be the last left with fewer than two missed questions. They also had the option of using one pass to receive another question, though that option couldn’t be used during the first round or the video round.

The questions proved more challenging for teams than in many years past. After the fourth round, only Houghton had yet to miss a question.

Odd-numbered rounds were devoted to the 1913-14 copper miners’ strike to commemorate its 100th anniversary.

Successive teams had third-round questions about the Western Federation of Miners’ newspaper (The Miners’ Bulletin) and the pro-management Citizens’ Alliance organ (The Truth). For the second question, Dollar Bay High School’s The Radical Radiants answered “The Daily Mining Gazette.”

The sixth round was visual; teams had to answer questions based on photos incorporating key historic figures or locations. One photo showed a strike sign referring to something as the strikers’ “agitator,” which Moyer’s Misfits correctly identified as the one-man drill.

Mike Pflaum, superintendent of the Keweenaw National Historical Park, praised the contestants at the end of the night.

“The value of understanding and knowing our local history is priceless, especially when that local history is truly of national significance,” he said.

“Things that happened here in the Copper Country resonated throughout this nation, and to some degree throughout the world. The fact that we have a national historical park here is evidence of that. And so what we have, folks, are the next generation of the keepers of our treasure and our stories – and for those of us in the park service, future stewards of our national parks and maybe future rangers.”