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Kevin Locke

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(SOUNDBITE OF BELA FLECK AND THE FLECKTONES’ “BLU-BOP”)

AARON CAIN: Welcome to Profiles from WFIU. I'm Aaron Cain. On Profiles, we talk to notable artists, scholars and public figures to get to know the stories behind their work. Our guest today is Kevin Locke.

(SOUNDBITE OF KEVIN LOCKE’S “I SING FOR THE ANIMALS”)

But he also goes by another name - Tokeya Inajin which, in the Lakota language, means “first to rise.” Kevin Locke is a musician, dancer, teacher and a cultural ambassador of Lakota Native American traditions like the Hoop Dance and the indigenous Northern Plains flute. He's been instrumental in the revival of the indigenous flute tradition which teetered on the brink of extinction. But he's kept the tradition alive thanks to tireless dedication and a National Heritage fellowship he received from the National Endowment for the Arts. For 40 years, he's been playing, singing, dancing and telling stories to hundreds of thousands of people in almost 100 countries in performing arts centers, at festivals, universities, in state and national parks. But most of Kevin Locke's presentations happen through the educational system. And they're shared with children around the world. His goal is to empower today's youth and to raise awareness of the oneness we share as human beings. And he's also passionate about working with children who live on Native American reservations to ensure the survival and growth of indigenous culture. Kevin Locke is no stranger to South Central, Ind. He's performed at the Lotus Festival. And he was recently in town as a guest of the Baha'i community of Bloomington. While he was here, he joined Shayne Laughter in the WFIU studios.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Kevin, welcome to Profiles.

KEVIN LOCKE: Thanks so much.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: So, can you tell us, first, about your heritage and your beginnings with the Lakota and the Anishinaabe people?

KEVIN LOCKE: OK, I'll be glad to say something. I was reading this book called Teton Sioux Music. It accompanies their recordings that were done almost 110 years ago. From my community at Standing Rock, one of the informants says (Lakota spoken). Did you get that?

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Got it perfectly.

KEVIN LOCKE: You got it. He introduced himself. And he said, “I'm just a person that has a place, has a position somewhere between heaven and earth. And I am a person that sprang up from this earth. I count myself as a human being.” So, I really loved the introduction. And I've been using it ever since. His name was Etunka Saluta (ph). Red Weasel, this informant - and he was born, I think, sometime in the early 1800s. And that's how he thinks of himself. And I - gosh, I love that, you know? In other words, we're just a - I'm just a member of the human-being tribe. But just like everybody else, we do have some kind of ethnicity. We have some kind of a culture and language. We've been socialized certain ways. So, I really treasure that, too. I treasure the - all the interactions that I've received, my cultural linguistic background. I was so blessed to be able to be around so many people. I would say a lot of monolingual people, who only spoke Lakota language - and so that was a great influence on me and, you know, the things that I carry with me up to today.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Did you grow up on the Standing Rock Reservation?

KEVIN LOCKE: Well, I'm still a work in progress. I'm still growing up. I lived a lot of different places. But I've lived there most longest - I'd say, longest.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Where did you receive your education?

KEVIN LOCKE: I started school at Lewis and Clark Elementary School in Great Falls, Mo., graduated high school in - at Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M. And I did a little traveling around in-between (laughter).

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Yeah, yeah. You went to college in North Dakota?

KEVIN LOCKE: I started - then, it was called Black Hills State College. Now it's Black Hills State University in Spearfish, S.D. And then, I went down to Haskell. Then, it was called Haskell Indian Junior College. Now it's Haskell Indian Nations University. Then, I was just doing farm work. I was bucking bales that subsequent summer. And my buddy said, “hey.” He said, “you have two years of college.” I said, “yeah, yeah.” I said - he said, “well, I'm applying for this elementary education degree through the University of North Dakota. It's called Teacher Corps,” which was one of the Great Society programs, you know, under the - well, Kennedy. And then, Johnson kind of developed it a little further. The whole idea was to train teachers for not just inner-city, urban areas but also underserved rural areas as well. And so, they had a really successful program going up at University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. So, I applied and was accepted with that. We did coursework on the campus in Grand Forks. But then, we were basically - did everything through modules, through distance learning right at our home community. So, I was actually just right there at the - I was an employee for each school district number four there in Sioux County - well, actually on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. Then, I graduated from that. I taught for a couple years. And also, I got an educational administration degree through University of South Dakota. And after that, I became a professional student for a while, too.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: When did you encounter the flute and the dances and knew that you had to take them on as...

KEVIN LOCKE: Well, you know, the - I think - I was just thinking about that. The first time I really heard flute music was - my mom had these old vinyl discs. And there was one that she had - it was from the Library of Congress. It was a big disk, but it was, like, a 76 RPM. This one was a recording that was done through the Library of Congress in the 1930s. And on that recording, there was a gentleman from South Dakota playing the flute. He would play the flute. And he would sing the songs because all the flute songs are based on a vocal composition. And then, I also remember hearing people play the flute at different gatherings. You know, there'd be a powwow going on. And, see, by the '60s, the flute was way - it was really an anachronism at that time. That was something that was really specific to the pre-reservation and very, very early reservation days. The practitioners of that were basically people born in the 1800s - 19th-century people. So, I do remember - like, at some powwows, the powwow committee would ask, maybe, some elder in that community to, maybe, during supper break, you know, when they took a break between, like, 5 and 7, they'd come up. And they'd play some songs. I remember hearing that. But the time that I really got more familiarized or more connected was in 1972. I was going to school at Spearfish. We went down to the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. And they had a big seminar going on. And here, I saw one of my heroes, one of my - a gentleman I always looked up to. His name was Richard Fool Bull. He was from St. Francis on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. He was born in the 1870s sometime. He didn't have a birth certificate. He was born out on the Prairie somewhere - 1870s. He was something like - they figured 100, 100 - 203. But he was very vigorous, a very robust guy. They asked him to do a seminar on his flute music. He got that from his grandfather. I went to the seminar. I was sitting way in the back. And so, he was talking about it. He played some songs. He described how he makes his flutes, why he decorates them as he does, all that - very interesting. He's such a warm, personable individual. The session was over. And everybody was - left. And I thought, well, since, you know, I was there, I wanted to go see his work. He's such an artist with his craftsmanship, the way he would make them. So, I went up close. And I was looking at his work. And then, I just thought, well, I'd just strike up a conversation. I'm kind of - always been an introvert. I told him how much I admired what he did. And then, I just asked him. I said, “well, who is carrying this tradition on? Who's taking it forward?” And then, he says, “well, nobody.” I says, “well, what about maybe your grandkids or your children or great grandchildren?” He said, “no, no.” He says, “nobody's interested in this.” And then, I said, “oh, that's too bad.” I said, “I think it'll be wonderful if somebody could take this on and take it forward, you know?” And then, he just stopped what he was doing. He was putting stuff away, and he stopped. Whatever he had in his hand - I think he had a flute in his hand - he just put it down on the table there and just stopped. And he looked at me real hard, really looked at me and says, “you're right. You should do this.” (Laughter) that's what he said. (Laughter). But he was so serious when he said that (laughter). I just didn't know it. Just took me off guard, you know? He says, “you're right. You're the one. You should do this.” And then, I didn't say anything after that, you know? Then, he just continued with what he was doing. And that was the last I saw him right there. And then, I was over at my mom's place all - sometime after that. And then, we heard that he had passed away. Well, he was really old, you know, over 100. A few - something. We don't know exactly. But he was over 100. And then so we were just talking about him. And then, my mom, she pauses - “Wait.” And she went out. And then, she came back in the room there. And she had one of his flutes. She had one of his flutes. And then, she just kind of handed it over to me. And I was trying to get a few little sounds out of it. Then, I just handed it back over to her. She says, “no, no.” She says, “it's just collecting dust, dear.” She said, “you keep that. You keep it.” I just thought, “wow.” I thought about, you know, that last conversation I had with him, with Richard Fool Bull. I started to listen to that recording that my mom had. There's a couple of songs on there. And those are the first two songs that I learned. I don't know what happened. But some people heard that I could play something on the flute. So then, I started to get invited to different places to do that. And as soon as I do that, older people would approach me. And they all had songs in that genre. Evidently, that was a very popular genre at one time. And then, it just kind of died out. The reason why it was really specific to the cultural conditions. The way they lived back then is that young people would all - where they would interact cross gender freely with each other. There were restrictions. But then when they began to get close to puberty, then the young people were separated. The genders were separated. And they'd go through their gender specific training to acquire subsistence skills. And so, it's no joke. You know, we were just talking about the weather and things like that. So around Standing Rock, around that region, it can easily go down close to 40 below zero without windchill. It doesn't stay that way. But it goes up and down. The climate is relatively unforgiving. It's abundant. But there's an aspect of it which is forgiving, so it's no joke. You have to really know how to survive, how to thrive, all the skills you have to acquire. So, this is what the young people would - during their adolescence. I don't think it was informal. It was quite formal, the process of acquiring all these subsistence skills. And then once they had achieved proficiency in these skills, and, you know, other things connected to that, proving the proficiency. Then, they're eligible for marriage, you see? There is a communication barrier there. And so, this is where the flute arose as some kind of device or some kind of a way that people could further express or embellish the feelings that they have, not just romantic in a positive sense. A lot of the songs are people who are romantically challenged. It's got all aspects - like, the good, the bad and the ugly. These songs, what they are is a literary tradition. It's a poetic style, the rules of composition much akin to, like, haiku. There's formulaic rules of composition to construct the songs. So, the first part of the song is comprised of, like, a very - it's very cryptic message like haiku, you know? Like, the first opening line, you don't know what it's talking about. It's totally mysterious, very cryptic. It's very opaque. But then like the next line will disclose or shed light and illuminate. And then the cryptic aspect is illuminate and becomes apparent. Does that make sense?

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Oh, yes very much.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Yeah, yeah. And so, these are love songs?

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah, yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: So, elders would come up to you as - you're a young man. You're just starting to play the flute. And they would say, “I know.”

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: “…Here are the songs I heard or I learned.”

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah. They say - like, people say like, “hey, I've got some songs for you.” And typically, I would ask them. And this is like in the '70s, you know, '70s and early '80s. And so, these are people that were in their 80s. They would often explain how they - as young people they would hear these songs, maybe from their parents or their grandparents. Even in the early reservation times, they were out of style. But it's such a treasured literary tradition. And they preserve idioms, expressions, vocabulary - much of it archaic but very, very interesting, very intellectually stimulating use of the language.

(SOUNDBITE OF KEVIN LOCKE’S “THE FLAG SONG”)

AARON CAIN: You're listening to Profiles from WFIU. Our guest is musician, dancer and teacher, Kevin Locke. He's speaking with Shayne Laughter.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: To get into the language.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Which is in the music and you talking about the richness of it, do you consider yourself a fluent native speaker? You say you grew up with people who were monolingual in Lakota. Do you consider yourself like a baseline native speaker of Lakota?

KEVIN LOCKE: Well, everybody does consider me that. But I don't consider myself that. I don't really - I can converse. I can understand. I can talk back and forth. I have to really say that I'm any more, I'm English dominant now. They encourage people like me - we're kind of like called upon to mentor younger people. So, I'm always happy to do that, you know, just to converse or talk or - I raised my kids like that, too, you know, just speaking to them in Lakota language.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Do you use the songs as examples of variations in the language?

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah, they're really rich.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: How they use - how to express…

KEVIN LOCKE: Exactly, yeah, very much so. Even though they're anachronistic even in the early reservation period, people would use them. Like for instance this one elder was saying that when he was young, they used to go on these cattle drives. And like from our place, you could go 200 miles east before you'd hit a fence that's on the Minnesota border. So, they go all the way out to Browns Valley, Minn. to maybe a cattle drive, bring livestock back. They could go all we almost to Kansas - south, like that's over 300 miles, no fences. Real old people from when I was younger, they would go out with their uncles, or whatever, on these cattle drives. And those older people day after dairy, that's what they would do. They didn't have iPods and stuff, you see? They would entertain themselves. They would sing these songs, you know, beautiful songs like that. And these are kind of like ballads. They're like ballads. So, they're very stimulating, very intellectually stimulating kind of music. So that's how that came down the line. People do go on the Internet. And they typed that Native American flute, you know? And I wanted to mention that the Native American flute should not be confused with the indigenous North American flute tradition. Native American flute was invented around 1985. So, I wanted to just before we left that topic.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Absolutely.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: I wanted to ask you that, whether the abundance of recording, the advances in recording technology and the accessibility of music, the popularization of music has changed Native American music.

KEVIN LOCKE: I don't consider that indigenous North American music. What people think of as a Native American flute, that was invented by a man named Michael Graham Allen. I think he's Scottish American. Last I heard, he was in Arizona. I don't know where he is now. But he was making traditional flutes. But then, he found he could market them. So, then he made these - it's in a minor pentatonic scale. It's called the melodic scale. A Navajo man named Carlos Nakai got a hold of one of those. He did recordings that went platinum, just went everywhere. And pretty soon, they were all over. There's so many of these recordings. And everybody got interested in this Native American flute which has zero relationship to traditional indigenous North American musical aesthetics.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: And is that related to the way it's tuned?

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah, it's a tune. And it's just used for improvisation. It's beautiful. I'm not saying anything bad about it. I'm just laying the facts out. So now people - in their minds, they think that it's connected in some way to an indigenous North American musical tradition, but it's not. Just to clarify that. So, what I play are the original tuning system. And now - and on Native American flute, you can't really play even - it's not designed to play the music of North America.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: That's interesting.

KEVIN LOCKE: Isn't it? I think it's so interesting.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Yeah. When you say Native American flute...

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: …You're referring to this sort of popularized…

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah, modern instrument.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: …Instrument that - modern instrument that people are composing on.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah, yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: People are bringing out new songs and new orchestrations, new arrangements with it.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah. But it's just their - it's their own improv. It's their own kind of like your own feeling which is good. It's really good. And there's thousands of recordings on this. There's thousands of people making those kind of flutes. It's all over the Internet. But the original kind of flutes, you can't find those.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: OK, so let's stick with the original flute.

KEVIN LOCKE: (Laughter) yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: You've got some in that pretty bag that you brought.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: So, would you like to play a bit?

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah, I'll play one. I'll do one from over where I live. This is a song - I'll do this - from Peter Looking Horse. His dad was from Little Eagle. His mom was from Cannonball. He was like a human encyclopedia of knowledge, especially in music. And I remember all years ago he just - he says, “hey.” He says, “I've got some good songs for you.” He said that when he was a little kid, you know, I suppose maybe in the back in the teens or '20s, his dad and his uncles would get together, usually during the wintertime, you know, when they're all snowed in or something. And they would entertain themselves by going through all these different kind of songs. And so, here's one of those - one of his songs. Like you said, they're all based on vocal composition. But I'll play a little bit first. And I'll sing it for you so you can hear how it goes.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLUTE PLAYING)

KEVIN LOCKE: (Singing).

(SOUNDBITE OF FLUTE PLAYING)

KEVIN LOCKE: So, you can hear that, the cryptic part of the composition is that it actually appears four times. (Lakota spoken). (Singing). So, this is a woman talking here just by listening to this song, the text of it. This is a real popular girl, popular young lady. So, you know, all these different guys must be interested in her, asking her out for a date, something like this. And this one guy in particular - he asked her out for a date. So, then she responds to him. She says (Lakota spoken). In other words, it's kind of like, “OK. So now where do you think you're going with this?” (Laughter). Something like that. That would be kind of like an English equivalent. So, he's like, “OK. So now where do you think you're going with this,” you know? So that repeats in there. So, then it repeats three times at the beginning and then on the second part of the song, then elaborates. And then it ends with that phrase. So, then it's like haiku. The next part says, “whenever somebody does this to me,” and everybody, you know, like asked her out for a date, “whenever somebody does this to me, it just makes me laugh.” (Laughter). So that guy got slammed, you know?

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: That's great.

KEVIN LOCKE: He got really slammed.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: (Laughter). So now you had mentioned that in the traditional way of bringing up children, that they're separated into genders. And they get their own training into how to survive and how to.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah, yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Be an adult. So, did women have their own songs?

KEVIN LOCKE: Oh, yeah, they do. All of these songs - basically, they're all composed in the voice of a woman talking. So.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Really?

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Even if a man composes the song, it's in the voice of a woman?

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah, yeah, because you see in English, they just call them, like, courting songs or love songs. But we don't say that at all in Lakota language. We actually categorize them. Some of them are what (Lakota spoken). Some of them are called (Lakota spoken). Some of them are called (Lakota spoken). Some of them are called (Lakota spoken). It depends on the content of the lyrics. In every case, what they do is they'll take - that woman is talking. And they'll take those words. They'll take those words and they'll put them in this magical formulaic modality, which is very aberrant. It's a very, very aberrant genre of music, composition that's very distinctive. And it's diffused all throughout the prairies and the woodlands. So, I could sit here and I could do songs from this part, from Indiana, Mishawaka or Second Fox melodies. Its exact same formulaic rules of composition as way out there in the prairies out in Montana. So, no matter when you hear these - the genre of songs, mostly on wax cylinders, ones that are preserved from the late 1800s, you can instantly identify that genre because the rules of construction are uniform across the region. Anyway, so for the Lakota, what they'll do is that they'll take this. So, this woman's talking. And then who's ever the recipient of those words will take those words and put them in a form of a song and send it back over to them.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: So that's the message?

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah, they.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: From me to you.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah. So, he's sending it back. When he makes a song and then, see, they don't have, like, radio airwaves and stuff like that. They don't have UPS or FedEx and stuff. The way they send their message, they used the wind, see? He used the wind with the flute. It's unobtrusive to do the flute. So somewhere way back out there, you know, that girl said that. And then, he's going to send that back over to her. He still loves her. He's got that real feeling for her. So, he's going to go way out somewhere. It might be like quarter mile, a half a mile out. But he's got his back to the wind. That wind direction is aimed directly at her, see? She's going to hear that song. You see what I'm saying?

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Yeah.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah. That's in the pre-reservation days, you know, when they're camping out on the Prairie.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Wow.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: That's lovely.

KEVIN LOCKE: It's interesting, huh?

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Yeah, yeah.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: I guess my interest was women playing the flute. Do they - would they compose their own songs and compose their own music?

KEVIN LOCKE: Now, you know, I've got a lot of these songs. Years ago, I went to school with the young man from Tama, Iowa, which is where the Meskwaki settlement there. And, you know, there - they are originally from this part of the country out here, the, otherwise, known as the Second Fox. But those are two separate tribes. They became known as the Second Fox because when the U.S. government dealt with them, the treaty negotiations included both tribes. But they actually are ethnically and linguistically distinct. So, the ones in Iowa are the Meskwaki. And the ones down around Cushing, Okla. Those are the Sage. And so, the Meskwaki here - in English, they call them Fox Tribe. I don't want to evade your question. But years ago, I went to school with the young man from there from the Meskwaki settlement in Iowa. And it's not a reservation. They have a settlement because they bought their own land there. But anyway, that's a different story. And then tragically, he died in an automobile mishap. So then according to their ways, their custom there, the family will adopt somebody to take the place of that departed loved one. So then, his folks took me for a son through that. And then on Meskwaki mom's side, one of her close relatives was a song keeper. He had all the songs. His name was Everett Capeyou. He had a mind like a steel trap. He passed away. His mother was a very intellectually gifted person who saw what was happening and that was that the flute tradition that they had was disappearing. There were just a couple of elderly people who had that tradition. So, this was probably in the '30s, 1930s or 1940s. And so, then she went around. And she collected those songs. Now she didn't record them. But she went around and she got them. She - you know, she learned them. And so, she became the repository of those songs. And I think she composed some as well. And so, she became the repository of the songs. Now the Meskwakis - in their songs, they're not strictly from the female voice or the male voice. They're - it goes either way. So, it's - there's less restrictions on the Meskwaki songs. But they're the exact same rules of composition as a Lakota even though they're from, like, thousand miles apart geographically.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Wow.

KEVIN LOCKE: So that tradition diffused out so vastly. I can do one of her songs. Should I? Do you want to hear one?

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Yeah, yeah. That'd be great.

KEVIN LOCKE: OK, I'll do one of her songs. And this is a song about this person. And their valentine sweetheart lives on the other side of the river. And so, they can't get across that river. It's too high, too wide, too fast, too deep, you know? And there's no bridge to cross. There's no boat or ferry service. And probably, their internet went down, too. So, then they want to get this message across. And so, the person says in the song - first part says (Lakota spoken). And I don't speak - I'm just, like, a parrot, you know, to sing it like a mynah bird, or something. But they're saying their valentine's over there, can't reach them across the river. And the next part says (Lakota spoken). So, the person says, “when you think about me, when you think about me, take your mirror,” they say (Lakota spoken), “take the mirror. Flash the light over. That way, I know that you're still thinking about me,” see?

(SOUNDBITE OF FLUTE PLAYING)

KEVIN LOCKE: (Singing in Meskwaki)

KEVIN LOCKE: So, you can hear the same rules apply there with the composition.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Yes.

KEVIN LOCKE: Now I want to mention too that that language - Meskwaki language which is like an Eastern Algonquin language basically like from a lower part of Lake Michigan, you know, Northern Indiana and up in there then maybe not quite this far south in Indiana where they're you know native to. But that was the language that was used in the World War II in the campaign to rout Rommel the Desert Fox, who was a Nazi tank commander.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: And that was in North Africa.

KEVIN LOCKE: North Africa in Tunisia, yeah. Hitler wanted to capture the Holy Land - his goal. Remember that Indiana Jones movie The Raiders of the Lost Ark?

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Yes.

KEVIN LOCKE: It's partly based on reality. I mean of course there's a lot of fantasy in there but this was the goal. And so, Hitler commissioned Rommel his genius strategist tank commander to come in that two-pronged approach from the south. They were going to come around that way, see.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Right.

KEVIN LOCKE: And a lot of people don't know that the folks who did the communications in that successful operation to route Rommel was a language from here.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Oh really?

KEVIN LOCKE: Meskwaki language, yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Meskwaki.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah. My adopted dad Frank Sanache was the last of the Meskwaki code talkers when he passed away a few years ago.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Wow.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: That's great.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah. So, they had - I don't know - I think it was close to 30 Meskwakis who ran the radios on that operation.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Wow.

KEVIN LOCKE: People don't know that, do they?

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: No. No. We know about the Navajo and then there's some other kinds - Lakota code talkers.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah. There was 30 languages used. People think it was all Navajo, but no. Each campaign had a different language. And Normandy was Comanches - the invasion of Normandy. Comanches did that, yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Wow. I did not know that.

KEVIN LOCKE: Lakotas they were more further in towards France and Belgium, or in - I think we had just on standing record alone something like 173 code talkers. So, there were a lot of them.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: No, I did not know that there were 30 different languages used in that program because I mean everyone was told not to talk about it once they came home.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah, it was classified. I know that my Meskwaki dad didn't talk about it till he was on his deathbed. And then at the last hour they had people come from all over interviewing him because he kept his mouth shut all those years. And finally, at the end he talked about it.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: That was the time to tell the story. Wow. Speaking of telling stories it's not just singing to the wind or flashing the mirror but it's dancing - how the different hoops are used in the dance. That's storytelling too, isn't it?

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah it is. Yeah it really is. I was doing some school programs back home in South Dakota. I went over to visit this gentleman. I was very pointed. I wanted to see him. He's quite elderly now and he's in a wheelchair. He had a stroke and everything. But he was a really well-known hoop dancer in his youth and he's a famous man. His name is Leonard Crow Dog. Leonard Crow Dog. Have you heard of him?

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: I have heard of him, yes.

KEVIN LOCKE: You heard of him. Yeah, Leonard Crow Dog. He was very well known. He was involved in the - you know, the Wounded Knee activity in 1972, '73 and, you know, Alcatraz. All this movement - he's really an activist. But in his earlier days - and he's close to - what is he - he's close to 80 now I think. Anyway, he was really a good hoop dancer in his day. So, I wanted to ask him about it, you know. So, I went over and I asked him. I asked him. I says, (Lakota spoken). I says, “Uncle,” I says, “I'm really glad to see you and I'm really happy to talk to you. But I've got - I'm here for a purpose,” I says. “I've got to ask you some questions.” But he speaks Lakota you know so we can just converse. But I'll say it in English here. When I asked him that (Lakota spoken) I says, “where would you say this dance comes from - this hoop dance? Where is it from and how did you get it?” I says, “how'd you get it?” He says, “this dance,” he says, “this comes from the universe.” That's the way he said. “This comes from out there in the universe.” He says, “it doesn't come from this world. He says, “this is a shadow world we're living in right here. It's a shadow world. It's a reflection of reality.” And so, this dance that we have in all these dances, these gifts, this music, it comes from out there in the real world. And we get these here to remind us of who we are and to reconnect us to that real world so we don't become lost in this shadow world, he said. Then he went on to say, he says, “it's really good, nephew.” He says, “it's really good that you're doing this for the kids because they can remember. They haven't forgotten.” He said, “a lot of us, you know, when we get to maybe middle age, or we get older, then we forget about who we are and where we're from,” he says. “But then what you're doing now,” he says, “what you're doing,” - you see and also his dad - I knew his dad Henry Crow Dog and his dad was a flute player too. He says, “what you're doing,” he says, “like what my dad did,” - and, you know, then, of course, Leonard was a hoop dancer too. “What we did,” he says, “this is the main thing that we can do,” he says. “These kids are becoming lost. We're losing them because they're being pulled away from who they are,” he said. “But now with what you're doing you can bring them back into the real world, the world that never fades. The world that's all - you know it's a springtime that autumn can never overtake - that world,” you see.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: I bet that sounds beautiful in Lakota to say the springtime world that autumn can never overtake.

KEVIN LOCKE: There you go. Yeah (laughter).

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Well what's - how do you say that in Lakota?

KEVIN LOCKE: You say (speaking Lakota) that springtime that never fades out that autumn can never overtake.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Beautiful.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Beautiful. And so, when you're dancing with the hoops, you have all these sort of small hoops - what are the hoops made of? You use a wooden reed or do you have a different material for your hoops?

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah. I actually did get that dance through from an individual. He said that he was going to give me four lessons. He was going to give me one lesson at the time and the rest later. But then - so he gave me that first lesson. He was in an accident and he died. And so then in that first lesson he said - he says, “I'm going to do my part.” He says, “I'm going to fulfill my part.” He says, “I'm going to give you these four lessons,” he said. “And then when you do your part,” he said, “through this, then you're going to be able to meet many people. You're going to be able to see many places. You're going to be able to have many wonderful experiences. And you're going to be able to receive abundant blessings - a lot of blessings.” He says, “you'll get all of that when you do your part.” But then he died, you know, after that first lesson. But see, he came to me through dreams. He didn't show me how to do the dance, but he just showed me the meaning behind it. And it's exactly what Leonard said, exactly that. I wanted to - just this - affirm that, you know, that's why I was talking to him and I would visit him. He said the exact same thing that I got through those dreams. But that's how I got it. But then when I went to his - his mom asked me to be a pallbearer at his funeral. So, I went up there. And he's from Shell Creek. It's on the three affiliated tribes - Manda, Hidatsa and Arikara - the North Dakota - North Dakota is where he was from. It's a little community like 11 miles south of Newtown. It's called Shell Creek. That's where he's from. So, the funeral is down there at Shell Creek but then when I got there then I saw his brother Jake. Jake Good Bear is his brother's name. So then as soon as I saw him and he gave me a big hug. Then he had his brother's hoops and he gave them to me. He gave them all to me. And I have those. I have - I take - they've been all over the world with me. I still have them. It's wooden hoops, and I use them. I still use them, yeah. And so that's how I got the dance. But the thing is that everything he said came true. He fulfilled his lesson - what he promised - the four lessons he promised. He fulfilled that through the dreams that I had - a sequence of dreams. Then everything that he said has indeed been fulfilled.

(SOUNDBITE OF KEVIN LOCKE’S “FIRST LIGHTNING”)

AARON CAIN: Kevin Locke in conversation with Shayne Laughter. You're listening to Profiles from WFIU.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: So, you have been traveling since - I know you've been recording since 1982.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: And you've been traveling since 1980 or the late '70s?

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah. Yeah I have.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: And you've been all over the world. You've…

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah, ninety-five countries.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Wow.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah, ninety-five.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Now I'm curious. When you present and you dance the hoop dance you play the flute you sing the songs, how do people of other cultures respond?

KEVIN LOCKE: What this is, it's what they call folk arts. They're folk arts or traditional arts. And so basically every culture in the world has some form of folk arts - folk music or folk tradition. So, I don't really know what the dictionary definition of folk arts is but what happens - the process is such that in every community throughout the world there is a process by which certain aesthetics are passed down intergenerationally. You know, like, within that community, there's certain forms I would say that could be - it could be music. It could be dance. It could be like storytelling. It could be all kinds of crafts and all these things that are really integral or essential to the identity of that community. And that reflects their sense of proportion, their sense of harmony, balance, beauty, color - all of these things, you know, unity - all these different things. So, it's really a set of aesthetics which is passed down and then as it goes down through time intergenerationally then that kind of maybe becomes somewhat refined, or it becomes, you know, accentuated. And what - the things that are accentuated in that process of being passed on are universal qualities you see? They're universal qualities. So, what happens in these folk arts and they're coming down. And they arrived on - at our generation now and when we express them what they serve to do is they emphasize or they showcase universal human values universal human aesthetics. You see what I'm saying? So, see those traditions that we have that come down as individuals like myself or whoever has them they don't belong to us you see as individuals. So, the only way we can really express them to the most efficacious degree is the extent to which we can take our ego out of it. You see?

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Yes.

KEVIN LOCKE: You have to take your ego out of it because see what it is - see those people back there - whatever generation, you know, it is that brought it forward perpetuated it, they had prayers. They had dreams. They had hopes. They had visions. They had you know their own aspirations. But now they're not here. But see we can fulfill those things on their behalf. And the power that they put into it we can realize those things on their behalf. So, in other words, we can release those prayers. We can release that vision. And that's the power of it. That's what Leonard Crow Dog was talking about.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Yes.

KEVIN LOCKE: These things come from out in the universe.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: I'm going to assume that you've also performed for other Indigenous communities.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Do they respond to that too - that universal level?

KEVIN LOCKE: Oh yeah. Yeah. It's really assuring. Just like recently I was down in South America. I was in Peru. And they have really fantastic, you know, traditions, you know, like, especially musical traditions down there - flute music and things like that. They respond there on that level of saying hey this is really something fantastic that we share. But it's not just within this hemisphere. It's universal.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: What I'm going to assume is that there are moments when you're the only American in the room - you're the only person from North America - from this continent who's present at a conference or a performance and stuff. Do people relate to you then as the American or the representative of America? Or is it through - do they relate to you through this sense of universal sharing of realities - human realities?

KEVIN LOCKE: I always like to just focus on the universal part of it. For instance, yesterday I had a - I was at a little school up there in South Bend. It was a Montessori school, but there's a couple hundred kids there. But that's all I try and do. You see, I don't care. My goal is totally not to convey a tribal or cultural-specific message. The only thing I really want to do is just to encourage those kids to be who they are. We're world citizens and we have something so beautiful, so precious, so essential to contribute towards an emerging global civilization. And those little kids are the ones - you see? - they have that. They have that gift. And you know when you see them you can - it's very, very encouraging because we see you know all these problems throughout the world. We have to have the confidence that the one above the one we pray to God or however you want to say that has not abandoned us and has put in the hearts - planted in the hearts of this generation coming up, the blessings that will be released and enable mankind to effloresce.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Yeah that's beautiful. Now you mentioned that you don't present like this is a specific tribal thing or this is a - and you also mentioned the necessity in presenting a folk art - the necessity of taking your ego out of it.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: I have seen one of the kind of obstacle to this kind of sharing of universal human experience and possibility is the argument that cultural appropriation is a bad thing. And so - and I know I feel myself sort of hesitating and I see other people hesitating to really, like, jump in and play and embrace and enjoy and participate in traditional arts, expressions, music, design or whatever because, oh, I'm not Lakota so I shouldn't wear these symbols. I shouldn't - you know, I shouldn't wear the jewelry. I shouldn't take on any of the styles. I shouldn't try to do the dances because I'm not Lakota. And I mean I've heard people say, “well, you know, women who aren't Arabic or Turkish shouldn't be doing belly dance. And you know or you shouldn't be playing that kind of music because you're not from the South Sea Islands. You shouldn't be putting Peruvian art on your wall because you're not Peruvian.” And I wondered, how do you respond to that because it bothers me a lot because I feel that the sharing and the enjoyment and the fellow celebration...

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: ...of that universal beauty is what matters. It's where we all come from and we need each other.

KEVIN LOCKE: Well you just answered your question. Let me just reflect back what you're saying, okay? The problem is it's a false dichotomy. You see when you look at things from the perspective or the reference point of a materialistic civilization then that's right. All that stuff becomes, you know, cultural appropriation and like that. But that's a very materialistic way of looking at it. But then when you think about it, you think about well, those things that are spiritual like, you know, like the beauty of all these things are universal qualities. A really good example would be, like, The Language Conservancy or the Lakota Language Consortium. For instance, you know Jan Ullrich, right - Jan?

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Yes, I do know Jan.

KEVIN LOCKE: So, here's a guy from the Czech Republic, right? He's from Czech Republic. But then, when you - when he opens his mouth, and he speaks Lakota, it's just, like, he could be somebody who stepped out of time - like, a couple hundred years ago, you know? He might as well be - just the fluency, how articulate, how precise, the beautiful idioms that he brings out without using one word from a European language. It's just fantastic. And that immediately lets you know that these things, these beautiful human qualities, transcend geography, race, culture, gender and so on and so forth, you see? So, we can see it like that. But then, of course, when you look at it from a materialistic viewpoint, then that's when all of this - all these walls and all these barriers and all these things come up like that. So, we have to create an environment in which - because if everybody just kept all that stuff for themselves, then the value becomes pointless.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: And it's lost.

KEVIN LOCKE: It's lost. And it's lost, too. Let's say, you know, you go out into Peru there, and you go to these villages where there's beautiful music. But yet the people there may or may not appreciate it. But the instant it's released out, then its value becomes enhanced.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Yeah.

KEVIN LOCKE: And so, you have to enable these different - you'd have to say it's just like any kind of a ecosystem - like any kind of environment, like right here, Southern Indiana right here. This is a beautiful environment. And you go out today, you can hear all these birds. It's like a symphony of birds. You can just feel like everything's going to - about to explode into life. But it's not a monoculture, you see? It's rich, it's beautiful because of its diversity. The human experience is the same. So, the richness that we have is based on this diversity that we have. And so, all these things are going to - are coming together down there. It's creating life.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Yes. Yeah.

KEVIN LOCKE: Things merge into something new. It's going to be the springtime.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Yeah. Spring is...

(CROSSTALK)

KEVIN LOCKE: It will never fade. Yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Beautiful.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: And we try to create that in Bloomington with Lotus Festival. You've...

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: You've performed at Lotus...

KEVIN LOCKE: Yes.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: ...Festival several times.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yes.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Yes. And you have other connections to Bloomington. I was - like, what was first time you came to Bloomington?

KEVIN LOCKE: Oh, gosh. I came here a long time ago. They had a Baha'i youth conference here.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Oh.

KEVIN LOCKE: I attended that. I think that was in the early '80s, I think. But I've come back and forth over the years on, you know, different occasions.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: And how did you meet Jan of the Lakota language Consortium and the language conservancy that's based here in Bloomington?

KEVIN LOCKE: I think it was about 12 years ago. They did the first annual Lakota Summer Institute at Sitting Bull College at Standing Rock, where I live. I - somehow I heard about it, and I was so fascinated, you know, that this was going to take place. And so, I went there. And it just completely blew my mind because, you know, prior to that time, we - you know, we were all laboring - really inadequate dictionary. Or orthography, I should say - the orthography, which was developed - you know, it worked for the people back then in the early 1800s, but it didn't depict the phonemes or anything. And so, this is just fantastic to see that this work had been done. And I was just amazed.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Yeah.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: And by a fellow from the Czech Republic.

KEVIN LOCKE: Exactly. It just astounded me.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Yeah, that's great. And your connection to the Baha'i Faith...

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: ...Brought you to Bloomington, too.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah, yeah. They've got a little Baha'i community here, and I know some of them. There's one of the senior or one of the elder members of the Baha'i communities actually was born and raised in McLaughlin, S.D., which is right in the center of Standing Rock. I was telling them that I lived in McLaughlin for many years, and, you know, I always do a lot of running. And I was telling them, “oh, boy. There's one cemetery in town that I like to run over there. It's so peaceful over there. And there's two cemeteries in McLaughlin.” He says, “which one?” I said, “it's the one on the south side of the tracks - you know, over there, kind of on the east side of town.” “Oh, yeah,” he says. “Yeah.” He says, “and where did you go?” I said, “well, kind of in the southeast corner of that cemetery. There's some big trees or big pine trees. And right there, it's so peaceful.” And then he said, “well, next time you go there, look at those names. That's my parents are right there (laughter).”

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Ah.

KEVIN LOCKE: And sure enough, his whole family's right there. But anyway, I didn't know him because he's quite a bit older than me. But he left before I knew him. But anyway, he's from - it's just kind of like a little interesting anecdote.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Yeah. Yeah.

KEVIN LOCKE: But he's here. He lives here in town.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: And the universality of the Baha'i faith - it definitely expresses exactly what you've been saying, what Leonard Crow Dog was saying, about...

KEVIN LOCKE: Exactly.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: ...Universality of human experience and where we need to come from to...

KEVIN LOCKE: There you go.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: ...To connect with each other. So how did you find the Baha'i Faith?

KEVIN LOCKE: I was looking for it because, you know, when I was a lot younger, I had so many questions I would always ask people. I couldn't get the answers that I wanted. And finally, they said, “well, the only thing you can really do is you have to go out there.” They always point out, you know, like, towards those hills. Because if you ever go to Standing Rock, it's kind of like a prairie wilderness. If your dog runs away, you can see him running away for about three or four days, you know? So anyway, they kind of point out there. You had to go on those hills out there. You had to fast and pray out there. I started doing that. And then I just felt like there was things that I still needed to find in life. I needed to find answers and answers. And so, at the same time, I had met some Baha'is. They were - there was a couple living right there in Fort Yates. This one particular time I went out fasting, I had a real fixed goal. I wanted to achieve some answers to questions. I said in my prayer, I wanted to find this road of life - because this is a motif which is very prominent in the Lakota worldview and the way they pray. They pray for the Red Road. They call it the Red Road - (speaking Lakota). You know, this is what we want to find this. We want to find this road of life, this Red Road. And so, this is my goal. I just felt like it eluded me. And then so I felt like it was a big failure that I hadn't found that. And then my friends were going to be leaving the area. And just after I finished this one particular, like, four days, four nights out fasting - it was really hot. I felt like I'd just about died, and I just felt like a colossal failure. They gave me a Baha'i prayer book. I just opened that prayer book up, and I turned to this prayer. It says, “oh, Lord, my God, praise and thanksgiving be unto thee, for thou hast guided me to the highway of the kingdom, suffered me to walk in the straight and farthest-reaching path. Illumine my eye by beholding the splendors of thy light. Incline my ear to the melodies of the birds of holiness from the kingdom of mysteries, and attracted my heart with thy love among the riches.” It's kind of a long prayer. But anyway, as I read this prayer, then I realized, that's exactly what I was praying for - this road, this straight and farthest-reaching path. And all - the whole prayer, what it does is it elaborates on, as we walk on this journey and all, there's beautiful worlds, there's beautiful potentialities unfolding before us. As I read that, it just hit me that I had found what I was looking for. And so then subsequently, now, I have been able to meet Baha'is all over the world. You know, the Baha'i faith is, like - I think, it's, like, the first or second-most geographically widespread religion in the world - just as free information real briefly. And I think the largest Baha'i community is in India, and most of them are from a Hindu background. I think, like, maybe the one of the fastest-growing Baha'i communities is Mongolia. And they're from - mostly from a Tibetan Buddhist background. Another one of the really fast-growing communities is Vanuatu, and they're from a cargo cult (laughter).

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Yes, the little, tiny island of Vanuatu.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah, yeah. That's in Melanesia.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Yeah.

KEVIN LOCKE: But all through the area, it's really growing fast. In Peru and Bolivia, it's very - you know, there's huge communities over there. I was just down there. I met quite a few. But anyway, in North America, most of the Baha'is are from a Christian background, you know, for the most part. But the thing that unifies all these people is that they all recognize in the person and teachings and that voice of God for this day in the person of Baha'u'llah, who for 40 years before his passing in 1892 revealed, you know, tens of thousands of writings - you know, the prayers, the precepts, the information that mankind has been longing for to achieve this day of fulfillment. Yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Beautiful. Beautiful. It's so - yeah, great. OK, last question. OK. You've been travelling and teaching for 40 years. You're now an elder. And you do this tremendously athletic dance, the Hoop Dance. How do you stay in shape?

KEVIN LOCKE: I've got a personal trainer. It's my wife.

(LAUGHTER)

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: That's handy.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah. First of all, yeah, she has me on a certain kind of a diet. She has me do all these exercise videos. You know, they do all the - all the different muscle groups and the core workout. So, I do all that stuff, so yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Great.

KEVIN LOCKE: But it's OK.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Yeah. Do you still run?

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah, I do a lot of running - like, maybe three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 miles a day or something like that - depends on how I feel.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: Great.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah, I do all that stuff. I've just got to push myself to the limit every day.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: That's wonderful.

KEVIN LOCKE: Yeah.

SHAYNE LAUGHTER: That's wonderful. I really appreciate your coming in, Kevin. Thank you for being with us.

KEVIN LOCKE: Thank you so much. It's been great.

(SOUNDBITE OF KEVIN LOCKE’S "WHEN THUNDER CALLS")

KEVIN LOCKE: (Speaking Lakota).

AARON CAIN: Kevin Locke, musician, dancer, teacher and cultural ambassador of Lakota Native American traditions. He's been speaking with Shayne Laughter. I'm Aaron Cain. Thanks for listening.

MARK CHILLA: Copies of this and other programs can be obtained by calling 812-855-1357. Information about Profiles, including archives of past shows, can be found at our website, wfiu.org. Profiles is a production of WFIU and comes from the studios of Indiana University. The producer is Aaron Cain. The studio engineer and radio audio director is Michael Paskash. The executive producer is John Bailey. Please join us next week for another edition of Profiles.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELA FLECK AND THE FLECKTONES' "BLU-BOP")

 

Kevin Locke (Aaron Cain, WFIU)

Kevin Locke is a musician, dancer, teacher, and a cultural ambassador of Lakota Native American traditions like the Hoop Dance and the Northern Plains Flute. He's been instrumental in the revival of the indigenous flute, which teetered on the brink of extinction. But Locke is keeping such traditions alive through tireless dedication, and with the help of a National Heritage Fellowship he received from the National Endowment for the Arts.

For 40 years, Locke has been playing, dancing, singing, and telling stories to hundreds of thousands of people in almost 100 countries. He's appeared in performing arts centers, at festivals, at universities, and in state and national parks. But most of Kevin Locke's presentations happen through the educational system, and are shared with children around the world. His goal is to empower today's youth, and to raise awareness of the common characteristics we share as human beings. He's also passionate about working with children who live on Native American reservations, to ensure the survival and growth of indigenous culture.

Kevin Locke is no stranger to South Central Indiana. He joined Shayne Laughter for a conversation in the WFIU studios.

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