October 9, 2019


A scholar, mentor, and community leader, Tinker is a highly respected American Indian activist educator

DENVER, CO. – Auburn Seminary has named Tink Tinker, the Clifford Baldridge Emeritus Professor of American Indian Cultures and Religious Traditions at Iliff School of Theology, its 2019 Walter Wink Scholar Activist Award. This award recognizes exceptional faith leaders who have dedicated their lives to advocating social justice activism.

Given annually at the American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature Meetings, The Walter Wink Scholar-Activist Award recognizes courageous individuals who dedicate their lives to advocating for justice and peace in our world.

“At Auburn Seminary we are looking to leaders of faith who show us what a future story of America might look like. Tink’s commitment to a multicultural practice of ‘mud stirring’ at Ilif harmonizes with his work for the ‘spiritual, psychological, political and economic liberation of Indian people.’ His teaching and tending of communities are what this world needs,” said Auburn’s President, Rev. Katharine Rhodes Henderson. “His example will continue to be a guide for all of us working to trouble the waters and heal the world.

The late Walter Wink was a member of the faculty at Auburn Seminary for nearly 25 years as well as a renowned author, speaker and activist. He was well-known for his work for peace and nonviolence, and the award is presented annually to someone who builds upon his legacy and shares his vision of a just world.

Tink Tinker, a citizen of the Osage (wazhazhe) Nation, spent an academic career both fighting for American Indian justice and challenging eurochristian students and communities to recognize their own history of violence on the continent. His classroom teaching and his publishing was always based on the ideal of activist scholarship. His research and publishing were never satisfied with merely advancing knowledge. Rather, he always tried to rock the boat of the status quo in order to point toward substantive change for justice.

Tinker was not only an advocate for justice, but persistently participated in planning and implementing protest actions, particularly with the American Indian Movement of Colorado. As a justice activist, he also inspired students to join in justice protest movements on the street. His activist role as a force for social change became a large part of his classroom identity.

“My job as a professor was always to stir the mud up from the bottom of the pond, to encourage students to sort out the world in a different way,” said Tinker. Following his retirement in 2018 after more than 30 years of teaching, Tinker credited his students both for pressing his intellectual development and his commitment to social justice activism. “My students were inordinately receptive, and they helped me by pushing me even further in my thinking and activism.”

Internationally he joined in the struggle with other Fourth World Indigenous Peoples in various venues, including the World Council of Churches Commission on Anti-Racism; WCC’s desk for Indigenous Peoples’ issues; and the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians. Early in his career he was president of the Native American Theological Association. His research and his activism, however, pressed him persistently toward Indian traditional culture and values and eventually challenged his commitment to eurochristian religious attachment. Steadily through his career he became more involved in traditional Native ceremonial life.

“Professor Tinker’s work has served to unsettle our generation’s unthinking embrace of the colonial settlers and the ‘romance and self-serving colonialist histories.’ He points us all to the uncomfortable reality that if we are to own anything, as opposed to land, it is the realization that this rationalization led to systemic violence and the genocide of Indian people,” said Iliff President Rev. Dr. Thomas V. Wolfe.

About Iliff School of Theology (

Founded in 1892, the Iliff School of Theology is an independent, graduate school that is recognized nationally and internationally for its emphasis on justice, diversity, and ethics.  Ranked in the top 10 theological schools engaged in multi-faith education by the Auburn Theological Seminary, Iliff offers programs that educate and develop leaders with courageous theological imagination. Located in Denver, Colorado, Iliff offers a progressive and diverse community that is supportive, inclusive, and enriching for students.

About Auburn Seminary (

Auburn Seminary is a leadership development and research institute, working to build the field of the multifaith movement for justice. From local to global, Auburn equips leaders of faith and moral courage and brings together unlikely partners to address today’s seemingly intractable challenges, strengthen communities and inspire hope.

Learn more about the award at:

Join Auburn’s President, the Rev. Dr. Katharine Rhodes Henderson on Monday evening, November 25th, 7:30-9:00 at our reception to celebrate Dr. Tinker and our scholar-activist community