Born in the small town of Pawhuska, Oklahoma; Charles “Skip” Tenkiller was one of the few remaining full-blooded Osage tribal members left. His family can trace their lineage back over 300 years, and had always lived and worked in that area of northeast Oklahoma.
Charles grew up on the family farm and attending public school in town. He was a mildly above average student, but while in his studies he excelled, he was considered “shy” and “withdrawn”. He was one of 5 children, and it wasn’t until his sophomore year of high school that one teacher, history teacher David Scoles (a former Starfleet officer), took the time to do a proper social assessment and realized that Charles wasn’t socially withdrawn, he simply did not enjoy the company of people his own age. After meeting with Charles and his parents in their home Scoles realized that Charles spent a great deal of time with his tribal elders learning Osage history and tradition, including their particular style of hand-to-hand combat, and this was his preferred social arena; one in which he not only openly participated, but was highly respected for a person his age. Once this facet of Charles’ personal life was realized and Mr. Scoles convinced Charles that socializing with people his own age could also be enjoyable, Charles quickly became one of the more popular children in his high school. He was always happy to assist others in their studies, participate in school activities and sports, and served on his high school’s Student Council. But even with his new-found enjoyment of “normal” social engagements, he was still a devout student of his people’s history and culture.
It was during his senior year of high school that a particularly virulent form of streptococcus hit the region. Medical resources to deal with such an unexpected issue were scarce, and Medical response was slow to the area. Many became ill, and more than a few died before medical services could intervene. Charles himself lost 3 of his brothers and sisters, two younger and one older. His parent’s, who had always struggled to maintain their familial lands, now had a hard choice to make. Their land was much too big to maintain with just four members of the family. Their hired hands were mostly sick or dead. They had to either give up most (if not all) of their land, or find some other source of income that would allow them to hire more people from farther away; a costly endeavor. Charles was visibly concerned and upset, a fact not lost on Scoles, who had become close friends with not only Charles but the Tenkiller family as well. It was Scoles who first proposed the idea of Charles joining Starfleet.
At first, Charles’ family was very resistant to the thought. He was being groomed for a leadership role in the Osage Tribal Council. Many thought he may one day lead the entire Osage Nation. But with more and more work piling up on the family’s farm, and his grades beginning to suffer, Charles made a difficult choice. One day after school, he approached Mr. Scoles and asked him to help him fill out an application to Starfleet. Charles intended to simply enlist and send back what support he could. Mr. Scoles helped him fill out the application and told Charles that he would send it to Starfleet via “an old friend”. That “old friend” was a former Lt. Commander (now Captain) in Starfleet who was stationed at Starfleet Academy. When she received the application, along with a glowing recommendation from her former Security Chief, she fast-tracked the application through admissions. Less than two weeks later Charles received word (while having dinner with his family and Mr. Scoles) that he had been accepted to Starfleet Academy. The news shook the family, but not in a negative way. His parents were ecstatic at the opportunity Charles had been granted. Charles was in shock. After the obligatory cheers and congratulations had died down, Mr. Scoles explained to the Tenkiller’s what Charles acceptance would mean: four years at the Academy, then assignment to any one of numerous positions both on Earth and elsewhere in Federation space. Charles was overwhelmed. He suddenly became very aware of how little experience he had with the world at large, and how little he knew of what lay beyond the world he called home. His whole life had been his family and his Tribe, and now he had an entire galaxy of opportunities. The magnitude of what lie ahead caused him to become physically sick. He got up from the table where everyone was talking and, unnoticed, left his house and went to see two members of the Tribal Council who lived nearby. He told them what had transpired and asked for their wisdom in what to do. The elders excused themselves and left the room, leaving Charles alone. He waited for over three hours for their return. When they returned, Charles was told to prepare himself for a Tribal Council.
Charles went home and dressed in his ceremonial garb. When he came downstairs, he saw his family dressed in their traditional clothes as well, and Mr. Scoles wearing a sash denoting him as an honored guest. Charles was confused and asked what was going on. His parents smiled and said nothing. They drove to the Tribal grounds and Charles saw all the members of his tribe, all of his people, gathered and standing in silence around a large fire. Charles was ushered into the center of the gathering, and over the next two hours he was made a Tribal elder. He was tasked with maintaining the Osage ways and values, and promoting the Tribe by his good deeds and strength of character. He was given an elder’s buckskin tunic and necklace. He was given a war club and tomahawk to protect himself and those he would defend. At the end of the ceremony, Mr. Scoles was called forth. The Council thanked him for taking such interest in Charles’ well-being, and made him an him an honorary member of the Osage Tribe. The party that followed both ceremonies is still remembered as one of the most joyous occasions in many years.
Charles left for the Academy immediately after graduation. He arrived in San Francisco carrying his belongings in a buffalo-hide bag made for him by his mother and sister. He knew it was a bit much, but they had been so excited to make it for him he couldn’t refuse. He checked in to the Academy, and was greeted by Mr. Scoles’ “old friend”, Captain Melissa Case. She walked him through the admissions process and helped him get settled. This attention was not lost on some of his new classmates. Charles was noticeable to begin with, tall and muscular with long black hair tied back in a ponytail (which he was allowed to keep as it was part of his culture’s beliefs). Add to the fact that he was being walked around by a Captain, and rumors as to who he was began circulating almost immediately. Charles would contend with looks and whispers behind his back for his first two years at the Academy, but he didn’t let them bother him. He applied himself with a resolve that soon set him apart from the majority of his classmates. By the end of the two year general coursework, Charles was one of the top students in his class and had earned the respect of many of his instructors and classmates. Many of the off-world Cadets found his heritage fascinating, and Charles spent many evenings surrounded by cadets of other species discussing Osage culture and drawing similarities in customs and legends between it and other worlds. It was these discussions that not only stopped most of the whispers and rumors, but also exposed Charles to the myriad tapestry of cultures that make up Federation space. Charles wrote home more than once that “For every one thing I see or learn that separates the Osage from others, I learn two things that bring us together.”
After his first two years, Tenkiller had to select a specialization. He thought about it for many weeks, and decided to pursue a career in Security. First, he felt it was the best fit for his skill set. But most importantly to him, he did it to honor Mr. Scoles who had made all of this possible. Charles called him personally to let him know, and Mr. Scoles was visibly moved. He told Charles that that wasn’t necessary, but he knew that Charles would excel. And excel he did. Security was a perfect fit for Tenkiller. He became very adept at tactical combat and weaponry, finishing third in class in both of those areas. But he excelled at hand-to-hand combat. The Osage fighting style was something that the instructors had not encountered before, and it made him a difficult opponent to deal with. This training allowed him to better multiple opponents, and larger and physically stronger ones as well. One of the key components of Osage fighting was psychological warfare, and Tenkiller was very good at intimidating his opponents prior to engaging them. He used this skill in deescalation and negotiation scenarios. It was here that he picked up the nickname “Skip”. Many opponents would just skip engaging with him and take the loss.
Upon graduating from the Academy, Tenkiller received his first posting: USS Nobel, an Olympic-Class vessel as an Ensign in their Security detail. His year aboard the Nobel was successful. He was promoted to Lt. (jg) after leading a boarding party onto a freighter that was transporting illicit materials. The away team was caught unprepared by a a crew of smugglers, and close quarters fighting soon threatened to overwhelm them. It was due to Tenkiller’s leadership and ability to remain focused that the team subdued the crew and walked away with only minor injuries. With the new rank came a new opportunity: Chief of Security, USS Chimera.
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