Bahai News - Late Indian activist helped teach tribes

Late Indian activist helped teach tribes

By Connie Cone Sexton
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 09, 2001

Her Lakota name was Tawacin Waste Win, which translates to: "She has a good consciousness, a compassionate woman."

Those who knew Patricia Locke said she lived up to her name through the generosity and wisdom she shared across Arizona and the world.

Locke, who recently died in a Valley hospital at age 73, was considered one of the most influential members in both the Native American and Baha'i communities.

She amassed a daunting list of national and international accomplishments driven by her desire for everyone to have a chance to achieve their academic and spiritual potential. She brought higher education to 17 tribes across the country and co-founded the Native American Language Issues Institute. And, as a leader in the Baha'i faith, she brought increased stewardship and care for the world's indigenous people. Locke was also a fierce protector of preserving Native languages and cultures.

Although she held a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's in public administration, in many ways she was also a master gardener.

She learned to be patient with her many projects, cultivating them, knowing when it was just the right time to plant the seed of an idea. Locke wanted to leave the world with a bountiful harvest of her work, work that could be taken over by others when she was gone.

Locke had been at a gathering of elders on the San Carlos Apache Reservation in September when she became ill and was taken by helicopter to a Phoenix hospital. Her illness progressed and she died of heart failure Oct. 20.

She had dedicated her life to serving others and often shared her motto: "All peoples have the same need to love that we do, the same family ideals, the same need for joy, the same need for understanding."

For the past 20 years, Locke had lived near Wakpala, S.D., on the Standing Rock Reservation. She was born Jan. 21, 1928, on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation near Pocatello, Idaho, to John and Eva (Flying Earth) McGillis. Her tribal affiliation is Standing Rock Sioux, Hunkpapa Lakota, White Earth Chippewa and Mississippi Band.

As a young child, her family lived in Parker, Ariz., a short time. Her father worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Locke began her public life as a steadfast advocate for Native American people.

In the 1970s, she was appointed to the Interior Department Task Force on Indian Education Policy. There, she helped create legislation giving tribes the authority to create their own education departments.

In the early 1980s, Locke aided several tribes including the Northern Ute and Tohono O'odham Nation with education policy, human rights and environmental issues. In 1991, she received a fellowship from the prestigious MacArthur Foundation to preserve indigenous languages and culture.

Locke taught for much of her adult life. Her academic career includes the University of California at Los Angeles, San Francisco Valley State College, Alaska Methodist University, Denver University and the University of South Maine. She also was a frequent lecturer and spoke several times at Arizona State University and at Maricopa County Community Colleges.

Friends and family watched her outreach grow to encompass the world when she began following the Baha'i faith. From 1993 to her death, she was a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'i. This year, she was elected vice chairwoman, becoming the first American Indian to hold office in the assembly.

Dorothy Nelson, judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, met Locke 12 years ago.

"She was just an outstanding woman who I took to instantly," she said. "She was a very strong political activist, promoting the rights of Indians."

The two also shared the Baha'i faith. Nelson said Locke came to see that the most effective way to bring about changes is to push for human rights for all people.

She said Locke was a kind, patient woman but "didn't suffer fools gladly. And yet, she had this marvelous wisdom about not criticizing people. She would start her sentences by saying, 'Have you considered this?' She built a bridge with people."

Survivors include son Kevin Locke; daughter Winona Flying Earth; grandchildren Maymangwa Flying Earth Miranda, Anpao Duta Flying Earth, Kimimila Locke, Ohiyesa Locke and Waniya Locke; six great-grandchildren; sisters Frances Milligan and Frances Ayer.

©Copyright 2001, The Arizona Republic

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