Passamaquoddy tribal member, museum educator to deliver SMCC commencement address

Chris Newell, a Passamaquoddy tribal member who serves as Executive Director of the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, will be the featured speaker at Southern Maine Community College’s 73rd commencement, to be held virtually on June 14.
Newell is a professional museum educator who was born and raised in Indian Township in eastern Maine. He was appointed in February to head the Abbe Museum, which preserves the art, culture and history of the Wabanaki Nations in Maine.

“Chris Newell has distinguished himself as an educator and advocate for the Wabanaki cultures and people in Maine,” said SMCC President Joe Cassidy. “His experience growing up on a reservation in Maine and working as an educator will inspire our graduates and provide learning opportunities about Maine’s native peoples, who have lived here for thousands of years.”

SMCC will hold its graduation ceremony remotely at 11 a.m. Sunday, June 14. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the College is unable to hold an in-person graduation ceremony. People can watch the ceremony by going to SMCC’s website.

Before being appointed to lead the Abbe Museum, Newell was the Education Supervisor for the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center in Connecticut, where he led a team that created educational experiences for more than 30,000 visitors. He and his colleagues also launched an initiative to provide history lessons about Native Americans to colleges, universities, museums, public schools and other educational outlets throughout New England.

Newell has also appeared in feature films and was senior advisor on the documentary “Dawnland,” an Emmy Award-winning film that chronicles the Maine-Wabanaki State Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which examined decades of mistreatment of Maine Indians by child welfare agencies in Maine.

In addition to appointing Newell as Executive Director of the Abbe Museum, the museum also named him Senior Partner with the Wabanaki Nations. Maine’s four Indian Nations ― the Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot ― are known collectively as the Wabanaki.