Patricia Locke, 73; Helped 17 Tribes Start Indian Colleges


Patricia Locke, an American Indian of Hunkpapa Lakota and White Earth Chippewa heritage and former MacArthur fellow who worked to preserve indigenous languages and helped 17 Native American tribes start colleges, has died. She was 73.

Locke had lived on the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota. She died Oct. 20 in Phoenix and was buried in nearby Paradise Valley, Ariz.

Her Indian name was Tawacin Waste Win, and she lived up to its meaning: “She has a good consciousness, compassionate woman.”


Locke earned a prestigious fellowship from the MacArthur Foundation in 1991 for her work in preserving and revitalizing Indian languages throughout the United States. She co-founded the Native American Language Issues Institute, which became the International Native Languages Institute, and was honored Oct. 13 by the Indigenous Language Institute in Albuquerque.

Daniel Socolow, MacArthur fellows program director, said in a statement: “Pat Locke personified the spirit of [our] program by carrying out her work in education with creativity, skill and dignity. As an outstanding leader and passionate advocate, she performed the invaluable service of deepening our understanding and appreciation of American Indian culture.”

Locke taught for more than four decades, at all levels from elementary school to university, including courses and seminars at UCLA, San Francisco State University, Alaska Methodist University, Denver University, the University of Colorado and the University of Southern Maine.

She wrote a regular column called “Unlocking Education” in the Lakota Times and served as president of the National Indian Education Assn. A strong advocate for tribal independence in deciding how and what Native American children should study, she helped start colleges and develop educational curricula on reservations across the country.

In 1979, Locke was appointed co-chairwoman of the Department of the Interior’s task force on Indian education policy, and in 1982 she represented the United States in education discussions at the World Assembly of First Nations in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Locke served as national coordinator for an American Indian Religious Freedom Act amendment sponsored by the Assn. on American Indian Affairs. In 1993, she became the first Indian woman elected to the national governing body of the Baha’i faith.

Greatly in demand as a speaker, Locke described what she categorized as “the wisdom of the elders.” She discussed how some tribal chiefs were once elected by women only, that many tribes considered women superior, why male youths had initiation rites but girls had none, and instruction in traditional relationships of tribes to the Earth and nature.

Locke is survived by her daughter, Winona Flying Earth, and her son, Kevin Locke, who works to preserve native Lakota music; five grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.