“Our kids are our future,” Lincolnton resident Christopher Rowland said.
The Montana native and Native American artist/musician, born with the name “Ma’heonehoo’estse” — meaning “man from holy place” — has a vision to use various avenues of art to both empower and heal Native American youth not only struggling with suicidal thoughts, post-traumatic stress disorder and bullying but also the simple transition from reservation life to America’s fast-paced culture.
Last year, he founded the American Tribes Project (ATP) in Charlottesville, Va. He said he had been orchestrating and planning the foundation’s creation and development since 2010.
The foundation provided assistance for more than 2,000 South Dakota families last Christmas, Rowland said.
Since the start of his career, which includes producing oil and water color paintings and creating peaceful, melodious sounds with handmade, wooden flutes, Rowland has been visiting and speaking at educational facilities across the country.
“I grew up in an impoverished area,” he said, “and decided the best thing to do was to give back to the youth.”
He is most concerned about the limited focus of art in most American schools.
“It’s not a priority anywhere,” he said, “yet we are all art — everywhere we look.”
His current goal is to study and work with children stemming from the Tuscarora tribe, which maintains a large population in Robeson County, N.C. and is only one of hundreds of Native American tribes throughout the country.
Rowland revealed there are currently 565 federally recognized tribes and nearly 700 state-recognized tribes in the United States.
While his heritage is a mixture of three tribes — Northern Cheyenne, Lakota and Dakota — he grew up on a reservation for the Northern Cheyenne, his father’s sole heritage.
If the seasoned artist’s plans pan out, he would like to build a second facility through ATP in North Carolina and assist the state’s more than 50,000 Tuscaroran people, he said.
Rowland focuses on working with children up through fourth grade, at ages when they are just starting to form their own decisions and thoughts about future goals and interests.
“It’s a good time to instill them with art,” he said.
Rowland first dabbled with watercolors at age 6 and oils at age 9 or 10, inspired by both his aunts and mother — also talented artists, he said.
He just recently moved to Lincolnton.
He made the move four months ago, following a one-month stay in Charlotte, at a time when he was trying to recover from the harsh effects of Lyme Disease, he said.
Rowland opted to travel south from Durham, where he lived for some time prior to the Queen City, to finally settle in the town about which he had heard so many positive points.
He said he and Laurie Bostian, executive director of the Arts Council of Lincoln County, maintained a Facebook friendship for four years, and after asking her what kind of events and art culture the community possessed, he felt led by “intuition” to plant himself in the area.
“When I got here,” he said, “I found out it was beautiful.”
While a piece of him still longs to return to his home state and the Northern Cheyenne reservation, where he briefly visited earlier this year for a special show, he has no regrets about leaving the West behind for now.
He left the reservation at age 18, five years after he got his driver’s license, he said — since the reservation maintains no age limit for driving — and gained a security guard job at a local power company.
He said he had to move from the reservation if he wanted a quality, good-paying job.
However, his heart and passion have always been geared more towards creating and crafting.
Whether first capturing the subjects of his oil paintings through photograph or sketch, he always looks for ways to challenge himself through each piece of artwork.
“For me, I’m always waiting for that next piece,” he said. “I’m always chasing after that.”
Rowland noted he is probably most proud of a 10-by-30-foot mural he created, which now hangs in the Crow Indian Agency Hospital in Crow Agency, Mt.
On Saturday, Rowland’s paintings will be featured in the Arts Council of Lincoln County’s newest art exhibit, “Celebrating Native Cultures.”
The exhibit, including work from other artists, will be open 6-9 p.m. for a special opening ceremony and run each week through Dec. 31 at the Cultural Center in Lincolnton.
Rowland will also showcase his musical skills Saturday, performing with Rudy Rivera on Native American flute following a performance by the Tuscarora Smoke Dancers and Drummers 7-8 p.m.
While it seems Rowland has achieved it all when it comes to the art world, he would love to also use his voice one day and sing, he said.
In the meantime, he hopes to inspire children from his own culture and create original music.
“I don’t want to play everybody else’s music,” he said. “I want to play my own. Is it possible to create new music with the same instruments?”
Rowland also plays guitar and piano — which he picked up by ear following a vivid dream in 2004, he said, in which he saw himself striking the keys with ease.
“I had these beautiful melodies coming out of my fingers and woke up and looked at my fingers and said, ‘I can’t play the piano,’” he said. “It was freaky.”
For a while, he joked, pianos frightened him, until he finally decided to put his dream skills to the test and sit down and play.
His first studio album, “Blue Warrior: Dreams May Come True,” which he completed in a month, is now available.
The flute tracks were specifically crafted to provide the listener with a tranquil setting, Rowland said, by tapping into a “subconscious energy” that promotes healing.
For more information on Christopher Rowland’s show Saturday, call (704) 732-9044 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The event is free to the public.