Kevin Locke (Lakota name: Tȟokéya Inážiŋ, meaning “The First to Rise”; 06/23/1954 – 09/30/2022) is Lakota (Hunkpapa group) and Anishinaabe. He is an outstanding North American Native flute player, a traditional storyteller, a cultural ambassador, an artist fluent in the Lakota language and Native sign language, and an educator. He is best known for his hoop dance, The Hoop of Life.
Born in Southern California in 1954, Locke moved north with his family at the age of five and in 1966 settled in South Dakota on the Standing Rock Reservation. From his mother Patricia Locke, his uncle Abraham End-of-Horn, his mentor Joe Rock Boy and many other elders and relatives, Kevin received an education in the values, traditions and language of his original Lakota culture. He is often cited as an ambassador of Native American culture in the United States and around the world.
Locke attended high school at the Institute of American Indian Arts in New Mexico and earned a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of South Dakota. As a young man, he learned to speak Lakota, the language of his ancestors. Locke learned the nearly extinct circle dance from Arlo Good Bear, a Mandan-Hidatsa Indian from North Dakota.
Since 1978, he has traveled to more than 90 countries to perform, including most recently at the Malaysia Rainforest Festival (2018), the 9th International Sefika Kutluer Festival: East Meets West in Ankara, Turkey (2018), the Arte Dule Indigenous Festival in Panama City, Panama (2019), and public concerts in Winterthur and the Nonam Museum in Zurich, Switzerland (2020). Locke has served as cultural ambassador for the U.S. Information Service since 1980, was a delegate to the Earth Summit in Brazil in 1992, and participated as an interpreter and speaker at the United Nations Habitat II Conference in Turkey in 1996. In 1990 he received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest award given to traditional artists.
Locke has served on the board of the Lakota Language Consortium and on the advisory board of the World Flute Society. In 2020 she received the prestigious United States Artists Fellowship. He established the Patricia Locke Foundation, named after his late mother Patricia Ann Locke, to provide educational opportunities for disadvantaged children and youth. He served as president and creative director of the Patricia Locke Foundation until his death. In this capacity, he developed a collection of indigenous flute songs for beginners and an online library of cultural and traditional arts education for grades K-12.
Locke was an active member of the Baha’i Faith. He used folk art to emphasize universal themes common to all peoples. The universality of the human spirit, its inclination toward peace, balance and harmony, and the yearning of all people for the divine source are some of the central themes expressed in his circle dance, which is essentially a prayer for the unification of all humanity. Using his folk art, Locke shared this prayer with children and adults, with 50-55,000 people at a time. Although he has performed in many prestigious venues, before numerous dignitaries such as Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama, his favorite audience remains children and young people. When asked recently what his mission in life is, he said, “All people have the same impulses, spirits and goals. Through my music and dance, I want to create positive awareness for the unity of humanity.”
Locke is survived by his wife Ceylan Isgor, children Patricia Hupahu Locke, Waniya Locke, Ohiyesá Locke and Kimimila Locke, and grandchildren Omaśte Locke, Oželá Locke, Sienna Cordova, Omani Locke and Breanna Cordova; Wóksape Locke; KyaSue Locke; Wanikiya Locke; Amaya Locke; Ohitika Locke; Anpa’o Locke; brother Charles Locke; sisters Connie Zupan; Carla Peterson; Winona Flying Earth and Jana Locke.
Traditional Lakota and Baha’i services will be held on Friday, October 7, 2022 at 10 a.m. at Eagle’s Landing Lodge west of Custer, SD, followed by a traditional meal at the lodge.
Burial will take place at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, October 7, 2022 at Bell Park Cemetery near Rochford, SD.