Kevin Locke, an acclaimed Native American flute player, hoop dancer, cultural ambassador and educator, has died in South Dakota at age 68, according to his family.
A member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and from the ancestral line of Lakota and Anishinabe, Locke died Friday night after returning to his hotel room in Hill City, his son Ohiyesá Locke said Monday.
The younger Locke said his father, who had been performing at the Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills, suffered an asthma attack and died while he was being taken to the hospital.
Ohiyesá Locke said he had been video chatting with his father several hours before he died.
“He was walking through the Black Hills and telling me how beautiful they were, and he talked about some of the history of the Lakota people,” he said.
According to his website, Locke performed for nearly 40 years to hundreds of thousands of people in more than 90 countries at performing art centers, festivals, schools, universities, conferences, state and national parks, monuments and powwows.
As a folk artist, Locke used his talents to teach others about Native American history and especially enjoyed working with children on the reservations to ensure the survival and growth of indigenous culture, the website said.
“He had an amazing gift to touch people’s hearts and was very generous with his time,” said Ohiyesá Locke, who lives in Killeen, Texas.
“Through my music and dance, I want to create a positive awareness of the Oneness of humanity,” Kevin Locke once wrote on his website.
The Native American Music Awards issued a statement Saturday after learning of Locke’s death.
“Kevin Locke was undoubtedly one of the greatest flutists, hoop dancers and teachers the world had ever seen. He will be greatly missed. The Native American Music Awards would like to extend their deepest condolences and sorrow to his family,” the statement read.
Locke attended high school at the Institute of American Indian Arts in New Mexico. He also earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Dakota and a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of North Dakota, his son said.
Locke was a fluent Lakota speaker and served as a board member for the Lakota Language Consortium, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the language.
Since 1982, Locke, who played the Northern Plains flute, has recorded twelve albums of music and stories, most recently “The First Flute,” “Open Circle," “Keepers of the Dream,” and “Dream Catcher,” according to his website.
"I have always been in admiration of him, and he wanted me to follow in his footsteps. But his shoes were too big to fill,” his son said.
Ehlke reported from suburban Milwaukee. AP researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report.
Gretchen Ehlke, The Associated Press