Tribute to Kevin Locke: 1954-2022

By Guia Calicdan-Apostle

He came. He danced, until the Great Spirit smiled!

Kevin Locke (Tokeya Inajin, meaning “The First to Arise”), descendant of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Anishinaabe, mesmerized the faculty, staff, students and community attendees with his flute and hoop performance at Stockton Unity Day on March 31, 2022.

His words of wisdom about the oneness of religions and spirituality were inspiring; his audience was transported to a world of possibilities—that unity, like his hoops, highlights interconnectedness of all human beings.

Kevin Locke playing an instrument during Unity Day

An educator of Lakota language and culture, Kevin was a cultural informer and bearer, a principal of a school and a National Heritage Fellow. He won music awards for his flute albums and sought to preserve Lakota language by revitalizing it. In 2020, Kevin received a prestigious fellowship with the United States Artist. His native dance performance at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the Library of Congress can be seen on YouTube.

A resident of Standing Rock Reservation, Kevin has been a friend from a distance; we connected off and on through other mutual friends. It did not deter him from coming to New Jersey to perform.

Last September, I called him up briefly to thank him again for visiting New Jersey and told him about my daughter’s and son-in-law’s wedding community service with the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Tribal Nation in Ogden, Utah. He was thrilled. I distinctly remembered his last words—spirituality keeps us grounded and unified.

It was going to be our last conversation; four days later, Kevin winged his way to the spiritual world.

Kevin was a shining example of a world citizen that believes in the unity of humanity, connecting music and art to reality, to beauty and human dignity.

Unity and spirituality are intertwined. I want to show the relationship today through music and meditation and dance... With unity, we are together. But when we remove one of us or leave someone out, we are no longer all united."
Kevin Locke during 2022's Unity Day Conference

Guia Calicadan-Apostle is an associate professor of Social Work and member of the Campus Committee on Diversity and Inclusion Excellence's Social Justice and Education subcommittee.