George Soctomah Neptune, a Passamaquoddy citizen from Motahkmikuk (Indian Township), will travel to Cape Town, South Africa as part of a youth delegation from the American Friends Service Committee to attend the Global Youth Indaba: Leading by Example, a special conference created after the postponement of the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates.
George is one of 23 young people nominated by AFSC to attend the World Summit to meet with other youth delegations sponsored by Nobel Peace Laureate organizations from around the world. This is the second group of youth delegates sponsored by AFSC to participate in the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates. Neptune is the first North American indigenous youth ever nominated to attend the summit.
Recently, the Nobel Peace Laureates Summit was postponed because the government of South Africa refused to grant a visa to the Dalai Lama to attend the summit, prompting Laureates to refuse to attend, which resulted in the postponement. In the wake of this last minute decision, AFSC has been working closely with individual and organizational Nobel Peace Laureates, academic institutions, and other international peace organizations to offer an alternative youth gathering in Cape Town on October 13 to 15 around the theme, “Leading by Example.”
So far, 117 youth delegates from 20 countries will travel to the Indaba. Some of the Nobel laureates have decided to attend the Indaba and others will Skype in to talk with the youth delegates. The Nelson Mandela Foundation will host the Global Youth Indaba.
While reflecting on the postponement of the summit and circumstances that the Tibetan people endure, Neptune said, “The colonization of Indigenous Peoples is an ongoing process. Too many people view it as a piece of history, as something that happened in the past, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. By denying His Holiness entry, South Africa and other countries have proved that. Even today, the world’s most powerful countries refuse to acknowledge the struggles of Indigenous Peoples out of fear of the political and economic consequences that the acknowledgement will bring. While I am disappointed about the events surrounding the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, and agree with other Laureates’ decisions to protest by refusing to attend, I am still excited for and humbled by the opportunity to be in Cape Town and raise my voice on behalf of my Indigenous brothers and sisters.”
Neptune, chosen to attend after a competitive nomination and selection process, looks forward to the opportunity to meet and learn from other summit participants from around the world about the ways they work for peace in their communities.
“As a member of the Passamaquoddy tribe, the continued colonization of Indigenous Peoples in North America is a reality that we must live through on a daily basis. We are denied our histories and identities, and often prevented from preserving our cultures by the same governments that made treaties with our nations. I see the Indaba as an opportunity to raise awareness of the rights of Indigenous Peoples—not only in North America, but worldwide—and to educate others about the devastating effects that colonialism has on indigenous cultures,” Neptune said.
The World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates attracts Nobel Peace Laureates, leaders in the peace movement, and organizations from around the world. The first World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates took place in the City of Rome in 1999, which hosted the initial eight events. Since 2008, the annual event location has rotated among cities around the world.
Neptune and other youth delegates will participate in a three-day program comprised of sessions with Nobel Laureate organizations and individual Nobel Laureate recipients around the theme of “Leading by Example.” By attending the Global Youth Indaba, Neptune “hopes that my experience in Cape Town will help me to inspire others in my community to promote peace within our communities, and to collaborate with others who wish to heal and reverse the trauma that Indigenous Peoples have suffered throughout history.”
George Neptune serves as the Museum Educator at the Abbe Museum and his relationship with the museum started in his childhood. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 2010 with a BA in Theater, and was active in the Native American Studies Program. In 2007 and 2009, George was an Interpretive Ranger at Saint Croix Island International Historic Site and, after graduating from Dartmouth, worked in the After School/Summer programs at Indian Township School as the Cultural Activities Coordinator and Drama Instructor. Prior to his employment at the Abbe Museum, George was the Unit Director/Mentor Program Coordinator of the Passamaquoddy Boys and Girls Club at Indian Township.
AFSC participates in the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates with a clear goal in mind: To develop a cadre of youth leaders with the increased motivation, peace-building skills, and contacts necessary to spur innovation in their local peace-making work. Through workshops and networking the young people will use intergenerational learning and best practices to foster peace with justice around the world.
The next step is for Indaba participants to plan a local project together with an AFSC staff mentor. Neptune will be working with Jamie Bissonette Lewey, his Nobel Summit nominator and mentor, to help youth create dramatic monologues on the Wabanaki cultural legacy of protecting and advancing children.
The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.