Many years ago, LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball called in a young man who had distinguished himself early in life and asked him if he was willing to serve in a calling to assist Native Americans, and that is just what Dale Tingey has done. He became president of the Southwest Indian Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1968-1971. While serving in that capacity, he was made aware of the language, customs, disadvantages and plight of those people.
In his next position as director of American Indian Services (online at americanindianservices.org), where he has tirelessly shown his vision, passion, hard work and belief in a forgotten people, President Kimball’s vision was carried out.
Our neighbors, Shannon and Todd Miller, Grit and I as well as many others know what an amazing man he is, but we also know him as the man who delivers flowers and candy on occasion, and cherries and peaches, all given with a great big smile by our wonderful friend.
Dale is a very wise man indeed. He learned early on if the women in their men’s lives liked him, the men were more willing to help him with his programs. He was especially nice to wives and secretaries, but then he likes everybody and everybody likes him back.
In turn, when my husband, Grit, has an abundance of vegetables he grows every year, he takes them to Dale because we know he goes out delivering them to his grateful Indian friends.
Todd remembers going to the annual Great American Indian Shootout tournaments when he was just 6 years old and then after his Mormon mission helping his dad, Johnny, with the Thanksgiving Point event in Lehi each year. The funds raised from the tournament enable the Indian Services, a private nonprofit foundation, to give scholarships and assist Native Americans in their pursuit of higher education.
Our sons Steve and Tom have traveled with Dale many times on his little plane to speak to Native American youths in various places, as Todd also did.
Tom remembers when Dale would take off in his single engine plane, Dale and Steve in the front and him in the back. I well remember it, too. The boys were single then but it made me very nervous in spite of knowing Dale, who is an experienced pilot and has had a private pilot’s license since he was 15 years old, was capable and careful.
They would fly into the Navajo Nation, Tuba City and the Havasupai Reservation near the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
The landings were usually on a dirt strip that looked deserted. After a few minutes, people young and old would come running from everywhere waving their arms and shouting. Todd remembers speaking at high schools in the Navajo Nation as well.
Dale was like a rock star. He knew all of the people by name and made them feel great. He had a big heart, encouraging them to rise above their poverty. He housed them in his own home through the years, especially when his wife, Jeanette, who died in 2001, was alive. He stressed education as the door of opportunity for them.
Dale relinquished some of the running of the organization last year when he turned 90 years old but still goes to the office every day offering his wit and wisdom to whatever is going on.
John P. Livingstone in his book, “Same Drum, Different Beat: The Story of Dale T. Tingey and American Indian Services,” said, “He has remained true to his calling and tried to get each needed job done quickly and well. His breakneck pace and lively, fun way of working with people have endeared him to all.”
Throughout his life, he has been and still is the man who delivers.