the steady heartbeat of the drum speaks, a lone man dances the dance
of the hoop, inside the sacred arena. Twenty-eight hoops in all,
four different colors, all lace together, making the shapes of spring.
Flowers, stars, birds, butterflies, and even the moon, appear in
the hoops. If you’ve ever seen this, then you have probably seen
Have you have ever heard the sound
of the Indian love songs played on the flute? Its gentle, flowing
melodies dancing on the wind. Seven notes sing out in the old Lakota-Dakota
style welcoming the spring and waking the spirit of the earth. This
is the Niya Awicableze, the Enlightened Breath. If you have heard it, then you
may have heard Kevin Locke.
Kevin Locke's Lakota name is Tokeya
Inajin, which means “First to Arise”. He is known as the man who
revived the Lakota courting flute. The art of the courting flute
had all but died out when Kevin found an old flute in his mother’s
attic. With help from elders, who taught him the old ways and from
old recordings from the Library of Congress, he taught himself to
play. At the time, there was only one other player of the traditional
In 1980, the United States Information
Agency asked Kevin to tour. Since then, Kevin has sold more than
200,000 copies of his recordings, been to more than 65 countries
and won the most prestigious award from the National Endowment for
the Arts--The National Heritage
Tokeka Inajin is also known for
re-introduction of the Hoop Dance. It too had almost died out when
Arlo Good Bear, a Mandan Hidatsa Indian from North Dakota, began
teaching Kevin. Arlo was able to give Kevin one lesson before he
died in an accident. Kevin believes Arlo gave him the other lessons
through very vivid dreams.
The hoop dance is a very powerful,
very beautiful dance. Each of the colored hoops represent a different
thing, the four elements, the four winds, and the four races. Kevin
teaches the dance everywhere he goes. Traditionally, the dance was
done by men, but Kevin believes that the dance is for everyone as
it represents unity.
Kevin is a very talented man who
taught himself the Lakota language at an early age, although it
was still illegal to speak it. He began learning from his elderly
uncle, Abraham End of Horn. He would pester the old ones into teaching
him words he didn’t know and the correct pronunciation.
The people of the northern plains
of Maka Wita (Earth Island), owe much to Kevin Locke, as do Native
Americans everywhere, he has done much for our people. Through music
and the hoop dance, he makes our culture and heritage known throughout
the world and teaches the young ones about the past. He has done
much to take the Native American arts outside the Pow-Wow arena.
Kevin once said, "I see that
the Lakota people have many gifts to bring to the world. The people
are desperate for these gifts. We know that human kind is in a crisis.
Now we need to draw from all of these wellsprings of knowledge that
are within the treasures of the hearts of the peoples of the world."
Tokeya Inajin still lives in the
Wakpala district of the Standing Rock Reservation near Mobridge,
South Dakota. He still tours and perhaps best of all, he still loves
Kevin Locke (Tokeya Inajin is his
Lakota name, meaning "The First to Arise") is
known throughout the world as a visionary Hoop Dancer, the
preeminent player of the indigenous Northern Plains flute,
a traditional storyteller, cultural ambassador, recording
artist and educator.