A Tribute to Gary Tom by James Mooney
We are so saddened to announce that our Elder, Gary Tom, passed away December 2020. Gary Tom was an ambassador of Good Will around the world for the American Native Culture, and one of my best friends. Gary Tom was the former tribal chief of the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians, whereupon his earthly remains will be laid to rest.
Over 40 years ago he and I made a solemn vow with each other to devote our lives to bettering the circumstances of the American Native culture and its people. At the time of this vow Gary was the Director of Education for the Paiute Tribes and I had just stepped on the medicine path.
Gary authored many articles pertaining to the American Native culture for the state of Utah Historical Archives. His knowledge of the history of Utah’s interaction with the Native tribes was extensive.
Gary poured water for sweats all over the United States. Gary, Will Nakima, a Hopi Elder, and Director of Indian Affairs for the state of Utah, and I instituted the Sweat Lodge ceremonies in the state of Utah’s Department of Corrections. The three of us conducted a Sweat Lodge Ceremony for 24 members of the two Utah State SWAT Team in preparation for a national SWAT Team competition against a multitude of state and federal teams. This was a lodge filled with warriors, and the experience of sitting together in the lodge brought them together mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. The Utah teams ended up taking 1st and 2nd place in this national competition.
Gary and my father Walt got me into playing golf, which was not an easy task. Once I got the hang of it, I never had so much fun in a sporting activity as I experienced while playing golf with Gary. Because of Gary and my dad, golf has become one of my most favorite sporting experiences.
Gary, along with renowned pro golfer and pro golf announcer Johnny Miller, raised an excess of 38 million dollars through Indian Shootout golf tournaments, for educating American Native students.
Gary with his cache of flutes provided mystical sounds for hundreds of events throughout the world, including a multitude of events for the Salt Lake City’s 2002 Winter Olympics. Gary, along with Jimmy ‘Bear Heart’ Fernandez, and myself gave a crowded Mormon Tabernacle Christmas Program a sing-along experience of Amazing Grace.
Gary Tom supported Oklevueha’s legal standing and gave much of himself to keeping the church and the medicine safe. Gary Tom was the first Custodian of the Medicine for Oklevueha Native American church, a very high honor bestowed upon a worthy man. Replacing Gary Tom as Custodian of the Medicine, is Nathan Strong Elk, a Sundance Chief and Roadman.
Nathan Strong Elk
I was very close to Gary over a period of forty years, and I never heard him speak ill of anyone. He was a wonderful husband to Bernie and father to their children and adopted children.
I know that his uncle Clifford ‘White Buffalo Man’ Jake has welcomed this wonderful man in heartfelt embrace and acknowledging him with these truthful words ‘WELL DONE’.