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Only one Indigenous woman has ever received a MacArthur “genius grant,” a Google “Those Who Make a Difference” award, and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame: Patricia Locke.
Q: Known in her Lakota language as Tawacin WasteWin—which means “She has a good consciousness, a compassionate woman”—she is also Kevin Locke’s mother. In this installment of our Indigenous Messengers of God series, we ask Kevin to reflect on his mother’s legacy and on what he learned from such a remarkable parent. Kevin, can you summarize her focus in this life?
A: Creating a positive awareness of the holy souls who inspired our people was my mom’s passion. She grew up in an era when spiritual oppression was especially intense. I well remember how delighted she was to support and participate in the Indigenous spiritual revitalization movement and readily recognized that the foundation of it all was God’s mandate expressed through His holy emissaries to the people of this land. Let’s press on to meet the dawn.
Q: Among her many accomplishments, in 1993 Patricia Locke was elected as the first Native American woman to serve as a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States.
In 2006, five years after she passed away, Patricia Locke was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. In 2014, the National Race Amity Conference awarded her the “Race Amity Medal of Honor.” (See video: “2014 Medal of Honor Recipient: Patricia Locke” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ULcK1B7IRE.)
Kevin, your mother gained a huge amount of recognition for her work saving Indigenous languages, so could you please comment further on your statement that “Creating a positive awareness of these holy souls was my mom’s passion”?
A: Even though it was forbidden and illegal at the time, my mother’s relatives always acknowledged and insisted that the foundation of Lakota identity and reality was the divine message of the holy revelator: Ptehíŋčala Ska Wiŋ / White Buffalo Calf Woman. When the noted pioneer ethnomusicologist Frances Densmore came to our Standing Rock Reservation to do research among the most eminent elders in 1911, the elders insisted that the document must begin with the teachings of the divine messenger, White Buffalo Calf Woman. So foundational was her teaching that some say that even the name Lakȟóta or Dakȟóta (“they who are faithful, pious, civilized, blessed”) was bestowed by her as recipients of God’s covenant.
Q: What did you mean, Kevin, when you said “I well remember how delighted she was to support and participate in the Indigenous spiritual revitalization movement”?
A: Perhaps, after having lived through so much oppression and colonization, my mother recognized an awakening process in which the people could arise and begin to take charge of their own destiny again.
Q: Is that why you said earlier that she readily recognized the foundation of it all was God’s mandate expressed through His holy emissaries to the people of this land?
A: Yes! Immigrant accounts of the first encounters with North American Indigenous peoples typically note that every one of their gatherings began with prayer. What the Euro-Americans did not note was that prayer was a divine injunction imparted by the holy souls—the prophets, the messengers, what the Baha’i teachings call the “Manifestations of God”—who appeared amongst the various Indigenous peoples. My mother’s earliest memories were of her family’s participation in secret devotional gatherings—far from the reach and ken of the immigrant authorities, who were unaware of these sacred ceremonies. Despite overwhelming opposition, Patricia Locke recognized the essence of faithfulness to the covenant.
Q: So what did she mean by “Let’s press on to meet the dawn”?
A: That comes from the closing paragraph of the April 1994 Universal House of Justice message to the Baha’i world:
Beloved friends: Do not be dismayed or deterred. Take courage in the security of God’s law and ordinances. These are the darkest hours before the break of day. Peace, as promised, will come at night’s end. Press on to meet the dawn. – The Universal House of Justice, to the Baha’is of the World, April, 1994.
I love this statement, and my mother did, too, because the harbinger of the dawn is the morning star—perhaps the most important symbol in Indigenous North America—the herald of the new day that appears at the coldest, darkest hour before the dawn and announces the fulfillment of the promise that the cold and darkness and death would be transmuted into color, light and life. The morning star is often depicted as an 8-pointed star. The 8-pointed star gardens surrounding the Shrine of the Bab in Haifa were a magnet to the Baha’i Faith for me, especially when I understood that the Bab’s mission and life was synonymous with the symbolic meaning of the morning star.
Q: Kevin, how do you think our current “Indigenous Messengers of God” series helps to brighten this “Dawn”?
A: I pray, Chris, that this series will add to the inspiration required for us to unify and collectively arise to fulfill the dreams and aspirations of our ancestors who are ready to rush to our assistance to usher in this new day—this Day of God.
Q: Thanks, Kevin. I think it’s befitting to close with this statement written by Patricia Locke and Jacqueline Left Hand Bull for the Parliament of World Religions, in keeping with the spirit of this “Indigenous Messengers of God” series:
DECLARATION OF VISION
Toward the Next 500 Years from the gathering of the 1993 United Indigenous Peoples at the Parliament of World’s Religions Chicago, Illinois, 1993
We as Indigenous Peoples and Native Nations, honoring our ancestors and our future generations, do hereby declare our present and continuing survival within our sacred homelands in the Western Hemisphere.
Since time immemorial, we have lived in a spiritual way in keeping with our sacred laws, principles and values given to us by the Creator. Our ways of life are based on respect for Mother Earth, a sacred regard for all relations and the survival of our languages, cultures and traditions.
In the “Year of the Indigenous Peoples,” while the United Nations Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is still being prepared, we ask for solidarity in our cause from the religions of the world.
We call upon the people of conscience in the Roman Catholic hierarchy to persuade Pope John Paul II to formally revoke the Inter Cetera Bull of May 4, 1492, which will restore our fundamental rights. That Papal document called for our Nations and Peoples to be subjugated so that the Christian Empire and its doctrines be propagated. The United States Supreme Court ruling, Johnson v. M’Intosh, 21 U.S. (8 Wheat.) 543 (1823), has adopted the same principle of subjugation expressed in the Inter Caetera Bull. This Papal Bull has been, and continues to be, devastating to our religions, our cultures, and the survival of our populations. Since 1492, 85% of our 145,000,000 in population has been decimated by the effect of the Papal Bull!
We call upon the People of conscience in the many other organized religions whose historical actions have participated in the dehumanization of our Indigenous Nations, to help us put an end to the violation of our Peoples’ human rights.
We call for an end to the deafening silence of religious denominations and groups regarding the violations of our peoples’ rights, because this silence implies complicity and tolerance of the effects.
One hundred years ago, during the 1893 Parliament of World Religions, the profoundly religious Original Peoples of the Western Hemisphere were not invited. We are still here and still struggling to be heard for the sake of our Mother Earth and our children. Our spiritual and physical survival continues to be threatened all over the hemisphere, we feel compelled to ask you to join us in restoring the balances of humanity and Mother Earth in these ways:
A. Acknowledgement of the myriad of messengers of the Creator, the Great Mystery, to the peoples of the Western Hemisphere.
B. Support in promoting, preserving and maintaining our Indigenous languages and cultures.
C. Involvement in the world outcry against the continuing genocide of Indigenous Peoples of the Americas, by taking direct action in support of the International Conventions prohibiting genocide in their various countries.
D. Protection and return of the sacred sites and traditional lands of the Indigenous Peoples.
E. Reversal of the environmental degradation that endangers our traditional lifeways and threatens our very existence.
F. Repatriation of our ancestors and sacred objects from the museums and holdings of the world.
With respect for all life, we thank you. – Patricia Locke and Jacqueline Left Hand Bull, “Declaration of Vision: Toward the Next 500 Years,” from the gathering of the United Indigenous Peoples at the Parliament of World’s Religions, Chicago, Illinois, 1993.