Kevin Locke (Lakota/ Anishinaabe) and storyteller Mary Louise Defender
(Dakotah/Hidatsa) have each been awarded The Bush Foundations
$100,000 Enduring Vision Award. A total of three artists received
the award this year, with funds to be distributed over the next
three to five years.
Enduring Vision Awards are given to established artists to be an
example for present and future generations in their fields, according
to a Bush Foundation press release.
purely coincidental that two of the three final winners are Native,
as there are no racial or gender quotas in the criteria, according
to Kathy Graves, a spokesperson for the Bush Foundation. In 2008,
one of the award winners was White Earth Ojibwe painter Frank Big
are chosen for their artistic excellence, influence on their communities,
and their interest in pursuing deeper investigations and/or
new explorations to inform and enrich their work. according
to foundation information. Its very much a surprise,
said Defender, who is 78 years old. I just kind of feel like
its not really happening. She said storytelling for
her wasnt something that was taught, but rather it just
kind of developed. As a girl growing up on the Standing Rock
Reservation in North Dakota, she listened to stories told by her
grandparents, her mothers aunt, and other elders. They
didnt speak English, she said. But wed be
sitting around, and someone would start telling stories. I heard
stories all the time. It wasnt long before she began
to tell her own stories to her classmates and friends.
said her award money will go toward gathering stories from her community.
She tells stories of the way her people have been treated, the injustice
that has happened to them as they were forced out of their homeland.
She meets with the elders in her community to listen to them. I
havent gotten the money yet, she said, but yesterday
I used credit to buy meals for 25 elderly. Defender said she
also talks to them about the present, living on the reservation.
Its hell to be old on an Indian reservation, she
tells her peoples stories all around the country at colleges,
conferences and festivals, and also has recorded the stories on
CD. She hopes that her work can help her community by telling the
world what has happened to her people. She also encourages other
Native Americans, particularly the younger generation, to learn
about their own culture.
Kevin Locke plans to use the award money to focus on documenting
his work. Locke plays the Northern Plains flute and is also a traditional
storyteller and hoop dancer. Ive got all this repertoire
of music and oral tradition, Locke said. But a lot of
what I know is not recorded. He plans to continue the work
hes already doing to record the traditional music (mainly
from the 18th century), as well as creating original music using
improvisation and collaboration with other musicians.
said he never studied the flute formally. By the time I started
playing the flute, there were no flute players. He said he
learned by listening to vocal folk music and instrumentalizing it.
There were people that were very encouraging, he said.
Older people were happy to share their songs, and I began
to amass a repertoire. Each fall, Locke typically travels
the country giving performances both as a solo artist and with The
Kevin Locke Native Dance Ensemble, incorporating up to 15 performers.
Information about Lockes tours can be found at: www.kevinlocke.com.
is the second year the Enduring Vision award has been given out.
It compliments two other Bush Foundation initiatives that support
individual artists including the Bush Artist Fellowships and Dakota
Creative Connections grants.