George Soctomah Neptune remembers the first time someone else attempted to define him.

It was his first year away from Indian Township and the Passamaquoddy community where he grew up, when a teacher at Gould Academy was introducing him to a group, using a term that drew unexpected emotions.

“I was an Indian my whole life,” Neptune, 26, recalled. “Then I was told I was a Native American.”

Neptune bristled. And although it did not seem defining at the time, Neptune’s interests, education and cultural heritage have led him to join the fight for the rights of native people to live free from outside government interference.

After graduating from Gould and earning a theater degree from Dartmouth College, Neptune felt a deep pull to return home.

He gave up on his dreams of becoming an actor in New York City and volunteered at reservation schools, embracing traditional basket-weaving techniques that were taught to him by his grandmother, a Passamaquoddy elder and master weaver. When an international movement for native rights emerged in Canada and spread worldwide called Idle-No-More, Neptune found his calling as an advocate against government abuse of native people and lands.

“As I got older, I developed this philosophy that I will make waves,” Neptune said. “I will not sit by and not say anything.”

Now as an educator at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Neptune said he thinks constantly about how to teach non-native people about native culture. He hopes his work will help sow seeds of understanding between peoples who have been at odds since Europeans arrived in North America.

His first exhibit as a curator at the museum, focusing on the women of Indian Township who deal with substance abuse and its effects in the Passamaquoddy community, goes up this winter.

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