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Kevin Locke (Lakota name: Tȟokéya Inážiŋ, meaning "The First to Arise"; 06/23/1954-09/30/2022) is Lakota (Hunkpapa band) and Anishinaabe. He is a preeminent player of the North American Indigenous flute, a traditional storyteller, cultural ambassador, recording artist, fluent Lakota language and Indigenous sign language speaker, and educator. He is most known for his hoop dance, The Hoop of Life.

Born in 1954 in Southern California, Locke moved north with his family at the age of five, later to settle in South Dakota on the Standing Rock Reservation in 1966. It was from his mother, Patricia Locke, his uncle Abraham End-of-Horn, mentor Joe Rock Boy, and many other elders and relatives that Kevin received training in the values, traditions and language of his native Lakota culture. He is frequently cited as an ambassador of Native American culture to the United States and the world.

Locke attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in New Mexico for high school and earned a master's degree in educational administration from the University of South Dakota. He taught himself to speak Lakota, his ancestral language, as a young adult. Mr. Locke learned the hoop dance, which had nearly died out, from Arlo Good Bear, a Mandan Hidatsa Indian from North Dakota.

 Since 1978, he has traveled to more than 90 countries to perform including recent appearances at the Malaysia Rainforest Festival (2018), 9th International Sefika Kutluer Festival: East Meets West in Ankara Turkey (2018), Arte Dule Indigenous Festival in Panama City, Panama (2019) and public concerts in Winterthur and Nonam Museum in Zurich, Switzerland (2020). Locke has served as cultural ambassador for the United States Information Service since 1980, was a delegate to the 1992 Earth Summit in Brazil and was a featured performer and speaker at the 1996 United Nations Habitat II Conference in Turkey. In 1990, he won a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest award granted to such traditional artists. 

Locke served on the board of the Lakota Language Consortium, and on the advisory board of the World Flute Society. In 2020, he was awarded the prestigious United States Artists Fellowship. He founded the Patricia Locke Foundation named after his late mother Patricia Ann Locke with the mission to provide educational opportunities for underserved children and youth. He served as the president and the creative director of the Patricia Locke Foundation until his passing. In this role, he developed a beginner level Indigenous flute song collection and an online cultural and traditional arts education library geared towards K-12 classrooms.

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Kevin Locke. (Photo courtesy of Chamberlain-McColley's Funeral Homes, Inc.)

Locke was an active member of the Baha’i Faith. He used folk arts to emphasize universal themes that are integral to all peoples. Universality of human spirit, its inclination towards peace, balance, harmony, and a longing that all human beings have for the Divine Springtime are a few central themes that he displayed in his hoop dance, which is essentially a prayer for the unification of all mankind. Using his folk arts as a vehicle, Locke shared this prayer with children and adult alike ranging from 50 to 55,000 people at a time. Even though he has performed in many prestigious venues to innumerable dignitaries such as Nelson Mandela and Dalai Lama, his favorite audience continued to be children and youth. When recently asked about his mission in life he said: "All of the people have the same impulses, spirits, and goals. Through my music and dance, I want to create a positive awareness of oneness of humanity.”

Locke is survived by his wife, Ceylan Isgor; his children, Patricia Hupahu Locke; Waniya Locke; Ohiyesá Locke; Kimimila Locke; his grandchildren, Omaśte Locke; Oželá Locke; Sienna Cordova; Omani Locke; Breanna Cordova; Wóksape Locke; KyaSue Locke; Wanikiya Locke; Amaya Locke; Ohitika Locke; Anpa'o Locke; his brother, Charles Locke; his sisters, Connie Zupan; Carla Peterson; Winona Flying Earth and Jana Locke.

Traditional Lakota and Baha’i Services will be held 10:00 a.m., Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, at Eagle’s Landing Lodge west of Custer, SD, followed by a traditional meal at the Lodge.

Burial will be held 2:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, at Bell Park Cemetery near Rochford, SD.

In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to the Patricia Locke Foundation at patricialockefoundation.org

Arrangements have been placed under the local care of Chamberlain McColley’s Funeral Home in Custer, SD.

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