Allison's Book Bag

Author and Storyteller Tim Tingle

Posted on: March 24, 2014

Tim Tingle 3Tim Tingle’s career as an author was inspired by growing up in an Indian family. He was born on the Texas Gulf Coast. This means, Tingle grew up enjoying beach activities such as swimming, surfing, and fishing from the pier. He also loved to play baseball and basketball.

At night, Tingle would read or watch television. He particularly loved to watch cowboy and Indian shows and movies. Tingle shares with PBS that by second grade, he knew he wanted to be a writer. He wanted to write about his family, and other Indian families, so that everyone would know that Indians were not the savages from television. Rather, they were good people too.

Tingle’s grandmother was important to him as a child. He tells PBS of couple of pivotal moments in her life. When Mawmaw as young, she attended a boarding school where she was punished for speaking for Choctaw language. Later, as young mother, some kids threw rocks at her. One of them struck her and blinded her. So Mawmaw mostly stayed close to the house, raising six children and 200 chickens. She also cautioned Tingle against speaking about being Indian.

His father and uncles didn’t want Tingle to grow up without being taught the Indian ways. They took him on trips to Big Thicket, a heavily wooded area in southeast Texas. The group would hike, camp, and hunt for food. Trips lasted for several days. Tingle would learn of Choctaw customs, while sitting around the campfire and listening to stories told by his father and uncles.

Before becoming an author, Tingle earned his income in various other ways. Some listed at his BIO include a milk truck driver, carpenter, basketball player, former dancer (Michael Sokoloff Dance Ensemble, 1974-80), coffee machine repairman, and organic gardener. The foundation for Tingle to become both a storyteller and an author though seems to have come from being a parent.

When Tingle realized his son wasn’t being taught Choctaw history in school, he offered to tell Choctaw stories to his son’s class. To improve his speaking skills, Tingle joined Toastmasters. When it was his turn to speak at these meetings, Tingle would share Choctaw stories. He soon realized it was his vocation to assemble Choctaw history and legends into stories which could be passed down through the generations. Today Tingle is both an an award-winning author and a storyteller.

Some highlights on his path as an author referred to in Tingle’s BIO are:

  • From 1986-1990, Tingle took regular trips to Mexico, collecting Hispanic ghost stories. Many folktales he learned from these journeys appear in his books for middle school readers, including three versions of “La Llorona.” This tale is one of his most requested oral performance pieces.
  • Responding to a scarcity of Choctaw lore, Tingle began collecting tribal stories in the early 90’s. For example, Tingle’s great-great grandfather, John Carnes, walked the Trail of Tears in 1835. Later, his paternal grandmother attended a series of Indian boarding schools in the early 1900’s.
  • In 1992, Tingle began mentoring with Choctaw storyteller Charley Jones. He retraced the Trail of Tears to Choctaw homelands in Mississippi and began recording stories of tribal elders. His family experiences and these interviews with fellow Choctaws are the basis of his most important writings.
  • In 2003, Tingle received his Masters Degree in English Literature with a focus on American Indian studies. While teaching freshmen writing courses and completing his thesis (“Choctaw Oral Literature), Tingle wrote his first book, Walking the Choctaw Road. In the aftermath of its publication, Walking the Choctaw Road was selected by both Oklahoma and Alaska on the “One Book, One State” program. Moreover, The Anchorage Daily News sponsored Tingle on a two-week tour of Alaskan cities, including remote towns accessible only by sled and frozen rivers in the nine-month winter..
  • In 2009, he received a fellowship to write and produce a documentary film, “The Choctaw Lighthorsemen,” a historical look at the tribal police force. The film premiered in Honolulu in September of 2011. He has completed eleven speaking tours for the U.S. Department of Defense, performing stories to children of military personnel stationed in Germany.

Unless otherwise stated, biographical information comes from Sigafus, Kim and Ernst, Lyle. (2012) Native Writers. Summertown, Tennesse: 7th Generation.

Below is a video of Tingle telling an audience-participation story about how Rabbit got his short tail.

Tingle’s newest book, Danny Blackgoat, Navajo Prisoner is a HiLo novel which follows the trials of a sixteen-year-old on the Navajo Long Walk of 1864. Tomorrow I’ll share some basic info and resources about the Navajo Long Walk. Then on Wednesday, I’ll review Danny Blackgoat. Save the dates: March 25-26!

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