Kevin Locke (Tokeya Inajin is his Lakota name, meaning “The First to Arise”), the famed Lakota and Anishinaabe Native hoop dancer, flute player and folk storyteller, has shared his spiritual and creative practices for almost four decades, to thousands of people, in over 95 countries.
Kevin discovered the Baha’i Faith in the early 70’s while on a spiritual quest near his home of Standing Rock, North Dakota. At that time, the Indigenous peoples of America were prohibited by law from practicing basic civil liberties, which included the right of freedom to believe, express and exercise ancient Indigenous traditions, spiritual beliefs and cultural practices. So Kevin took to observing his own practices in secret. He set out on a spiritual quest, fasting and praying intermittently, in isolation, in search of the Red Road, the path to God. Kevin believes it was divine confirmation that lead him to the Baha’i Faith, and immediately felt this when he opened his first Baha’i Prayer book, to the following words of Abdu’l-Baha:
O 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 this straight and far-stretching path, illumined my eye by beholding the splendors of Thy light, inclined my ear to the melodies of the birds of holiness from the kingdom of mysteries and attracted my heart with Thy love among the righteous. – Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 81.
Upon becoming a Baha’i, Kevin immediately gravitated to the Baha’i law of fasting, which Baha’u’llah renewed and made accessible to everyone:
Cling firmly to obligatory prayer and fasting. Verily, the religion of God is like unto heaven; fasting is its sun, and obligatory prayer is its moon. In truth, they are the pillars of religion whereby the righteous are distinguished from those who transgress His commandments. We entreat God, exalted and glorified be He, that he may graciously enable all to observe that which He hath revealed in His Ancient Book. – Baha’u’llah, from a tablet to an individual Baha’i.
Expressing with his art that the Baha’i Faith embraces all segments of humankind, Kevin shares that this was another attractive teaching of the Baha’i Faith, and recites a portion of this quote by Baha’u’llah:
Unto the cities of all nations He hath sent His Messengers, Whom He hath commissioned to announce unto men tidings of the Paradise of His good pleasure, and to draw them nigh unto the Haven of abiding security, the Seat of eternal holiness and transcendent glory. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 145.
Around the time that Kevin discovered the Baha’i Faith, he also learned the art of hoop dancing, which he describes as a choreographed prayer that comes from the world of reality. Kevin shares that unlike contemporary Western cultures which often use art to escape from reality, most indigenous cultures use art to connect to what is real. This is a motivating factor for him, and became a driving force behind sharing his art and teachings with the world.
Kevin has devoted his life to bringing these ideologies of oneness, unity, connection and prayer through folk art, visiting schools on and off the reservation. By connecting traditional folk songs, stories and dances to stories of spiritual virtues and attributes, he encourages children and youth to strive for excellence, and to discover and develop their own unique gifts for service to humanity.
In his interview with Cloud9, Kevin describes life on Standing Rock, his spiritual connections to the land and the conditions that led him to finding the Faith and becoming a Baha’i. We learn about his creative journey and how he fuses both his indigenous observances and Baha’i beliefs into his work and service. We also learn how his faith and traditional background has landed him in schools and on stages across the world, including countless Parliament of World Religion conferences, festivals, and also the Lincoln Centre and Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts.