Tim Tingle was born on November 24, 1948, in Houston, Texas, United States. He grew up on the Gulf Coast outside of Houston with a strong influence of Choctaw. His grandmother was full-blood Choctaw and his grandfather, John Carnes, walked the Trail of Tears. One of the family's ancestors survived the Trail of Tears and made claims to an Indian land grant in Oklahoma. In order to preserve the legacy of the Choctaw culture, Tim's family shared stories of their heritage and the struggles that Native Americans face.