Dennis Hawk was born and raised in a small town in northeast Kansas, in a community known as Atchison. Nestled in the Missouri River bluffs along the fast flowing river known as “Big Muddy”, Atchison is an old city not much different now. There are still streets of cobblestone, a little downtown diner, and a family-owned drug store.
Dennis’ heritage is mixed, with his mother being of Cherokee/Mesquakie and Irish descent and his father German.
After completing high school in Atchison, Dennis completed college at Concordia Senior College in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. He then graduated from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. This led him on a journey through 18 years of inner-city ministry in New York, St. Louis and Milwaukee.
Dennis eventually began a path down the road to recovery from alcohol dependence. This time in his life also brought about difficult decisions including leaving a marriage of 20 years and being able to see his two children on a part-time basis.
Dennis then married Cyndi (Miller) Hawk who is a tribal member of the Stockbridge/Munsee Band of Mohicans.
Dennis and Cyndi owned and operated an addictions and trauma counseling agency in Wisconsin for 18 years. Dennis worked as a counselor for almost 20 years, while continuing to pursue his true passion of music, Native American history, spirituality, and stories.
Dennis received his Native American name, Animikii Gekek (Thunder Hawk) from an Ojibwe Elder. The name suits him well. Dennis remembers as a child his mother bringing him into the house because of the approaching storm. He loved to stand and feel the gusts of wind, watch the lightning and listen to the thunder.
One of Dennis’ interests is playing the Native American courting flute. He also makes the flutes that he uses in performances and recordings. Dennis was taught the craft of making flutes by Louis Webster, Menomonee flute maker.
Dennis is also an accomplished guitar player, vocalist, songwriter, storyteller and workshop leader. While performing, Dennis moves comfortably from storytelling to music and back to storytelling, creating a cycle of music and words that take the audiences on a journey.
In his workshops, Dennis incorporates teachings of Native American history and spirituality with music, giving a musical context to the experience. “Music and dance play a very important role in the lives of Native American people. I don’t believe we would have survived the life changing trauma suffered by our people without spirituality, singing and dance. As the story is told, my Cherokee ancestors ‘danced through the night’at the end of The Trail of Tears.”
It has been said, “When Dennis Hawk holds his flute and begins to play, he and the flute become one.” Much like a blues player, Dennis plays from the heart, expressing feelings by bending notes and breath control. He takes audience members deep within their own souls as well.
Dennis often performs with other musicians, poets, and storytellers. “When it comes to music venues, I want to keep them fun. This is for me as well as for others.”
Dennis presently spends his time composing and recording music, writing, and leading a Native American “Learning Circle” with his wife, Cyndi. Dennis is available for seminars and workshops focusing on Native American spirituality as well as music performances.