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Understanding Indigenous Culture in North Dakota Series: Special Feature - Honoring Kevin Locke

Updated: Nov 9, 2022

Kevin Locke was TRULY, a once-in-a-lifetime, one-of-a-kind human being and artist. Kevin Edward Locke was born on June 23, 1954, on the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota and was Hunkpapa Lakota, Ojibwa, and Mdewakanton Dakota, as well as Irish, Scottish, and English. In Lakota, his name was Tokaheya Inajin, or “First to Rise.” Kevin was an accomplished hoop dancer that included a powerful message of unity. Kevin was also an exceptional flute maker and player.

As a teaching artist on the North Dakota Council on the Arts roster, Kevin most recently conducted teaching artist residencies with support from CREA and the NDCA at the Immersion Nest on Standing Rock, in Plaza, ND, and in Wyndmere, ND. Kevin passed away due to a fatal asthma attack on September 30, 2022, in Hill City, South Dakota after a final performance at Crazy Horse Memorial.

“Throughout my entire life, I have never met a kinder, faithfully authentic and sincere person who taught me MORE about true acceptance than Kevin Locke. I have been watching his videos and sobbing, mainly because of how he truly impacted my heart in the most genuine way. Kevin, thank you for all that you did to help kids. Kevin, thank you for sharing your incredible and unique flute and hoop dance talents with so many. My time with you will be forever cherished and I wish you the greatest of afterlife.....wherever you are, they are sure fortunate to have you. ” - Dr. Melissa Spelchen, CREA
“Kevin Locke was an amazing educator, a fluent Lakota speaker, hoop dancer, flute player, but more importantly a model of Lakota values and spiritual beliefs. I am honored to say I had the opportunity to watch him work with students, the last time I saw him was at the United Tribes Celebration where he had about 1000 students dancing. Thank you, Kevin, for the many gifts you shared with all our students, teachers, and families. “ FLY HIGH Kevin - Dr. Kathy Froelich, MHA elder, CREA

He is survived by his wife, Ceylan Isgor-Locke; one son, Ohiyesá; three daughters, Kimimila, Waniya, and Patricia Locke; two sisters, Winona and Jana Locke; a brother, Charles; and two half-sisters, Connie Zupan and Carla Peterson.

You can remember Kevin by continuing to practice and spread the messages and lessons that he taught throughout his life. The oneness of humanity, the protection of Indigenous culture, arts, music, and heritage; be kind to everyone, be humble, honor the earth and the land on which you walk, and lastly, serve others.

Kevin was a flute player and hoop dancer. If you have a recorder, play a song in honor of him. If you have a hoop, do some dancing in honor of him. If you don’t have either, sing a song that matters to you in honor of him, preferably in your traditional language.

What is a gift that can be shared with your students? Who is a community member who can share a gift with your students? How are people honored in your community? What can your students do to honor one person who impacts the school and students in your community? Students can highlight community members who have an impact on their lives, this can be done throughout the year in the school paper on the school website page.

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