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"Writings on Civil Rights" (2015-16) by Donna Loring


"Writings on Civil Rights" (2015-16) by Donna Loring


In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, many indigenous intellectuals lent their voices to the cause of racial justice and equity. Donna Loring--a Penobscot tribal leader, author, and Vietnam veteran--exemplifies the commitment to cross-racial solidarity and social justice activism. She presented the "Memorial for 9 Killed in Charleston, South Carolina" at a service in Portland, ME, commemorating the victims of the massacre at that city's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. In 2016, she wrote a fierce defense of African-American activist Rachel Talbot Ross for the Portland Press Herald.  While the paper declined to print the piece in its entirety, she posted it on Facebook and asked friends to circulate it widely, saying:

I tried to get the Portland Press to print this article as an op-ed but they refused and made me cut a 730 word article down to 150 words. I did that because I wanted to get something in about Rachel before the primary next week. I decided to put the entire article on my facebook and ask you guys to share it on your facebook pages twitter and any other form of social media you can.The paper controls too much of our political process. Please circulate this! THANK YOU!!!!


Donna Loring* was raised by her grandmother on Indian Island, Maine. Loring received a Bachelors degree of Arts in Political Science from the University of Maine in Orono, and later attended the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.  In 1984 she became the police chief for the Penobscot nation, making her the Academy's first female graduate to become a police chief. From 1992 to 1997, Loring was the first female director of security at Bowdoin College. During her service in Vietnam, she was stationed at the communications center at Long Binh Army base north of Saigon, where she processed all casualty reports of southeast Asia. Former Maine State Governor Angus King commissioned her to honorary Colonel rank, and appointed her as Aide de Camp to advise him on women veteran's affairs. In 2011, Loring retired to form a new nonprofit, Seven Eagles Media Production, which works to create accurate representations of Native people. She is also a member of the Deborah Morton Society of the University of New England and a member of the International Women's Forum (IWF)

Tribal Representative: In The Shadow of the Eagle

Between 1998 and 2008, Loring served as Penobscot tribal representative to the Maine State Legislature. Maine is unique in having tribal representatives sit in its state legislature. Following this tradition, which dates back to the 1800s, Loring served several terms on behalf of the Penobscots. One of her major accomplishments was her writing and sponsorship of LD 291, “an Act to Require Teaching Maine Native American History and Culture in Maine’s Schools,” which passed as a law in 2001. She also created and supported the first "State of the Tribes Address" in 2002. 

During her tenure, Loring kept a journal, which she later turned into a memoir, In the Shadow of the Eagle.  The book provides great insight into the inner workings of the U.S. government on a state level, as well as the adversity Native Americans face in modern times.  For instance, the first bill Loring worked on was called the “Offensive Names Bill.” This banned the use of the word "Squaw" in the titles of Maine locations and tourist spots. She also worked on a bill that proposed an extension on the time period in which the tribe could purchase land for the Calais Casino. More than one representative opposed this and any bill having to do with Native casinos, while at the same time supporting bills that would enable race tracks to receive verbal bets over the telephone.

Loring also used her position to fight environmental contamination from a local paper company.  When she brought the issue to the table, the company responded with a bill to define and criminalize environmental terrorism. Loring responded by publishing an article suggesting that the bill's sponsors were the true "environmental terrorists."

As her final action in the state legislature, Loring brought forward the JOINT RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF THE UNITED NATIONS DECLARATION ON THE RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES (H.P. 1681). This passed, without debate, in both the State House and Senate on April 15, 2008. Maine was only state in the country to pass such a resolution in favor of the UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights.

Although Loring had opposition during her time as Tribal representative, her influence within the house was recognized by everyone. One of her opponents, Representative Waterhouse, once proposed a bill to ban the use of minors in police sting operations, particularly those involving tobacco sales. Loring stood up in support of this bill, which passed with staggering numbers (about two thirds). Later, she received a note from Waterhouse himself, saying “Thanks Donna, you have a lot of sway around here.”

New Directions

In 2009, Loring gave her personal and literary papers to the University of New England, which established a highly regarded lecture series in her name.  Loring has continued to write and has produced the first Penobscot musical, The Glooskape Chronicles

*This article began as a biographical entry for Wikipedia.  We thank Donna Loring for her time and feedback on that article and this one.


Dolloff, Aimee. "‘The Eagle’ has landed; The Legislature’s tribal representative, Donna M. Loring, hopes her memoir provides a guide for those who follow in her footsteps". Bangor Daily News. Retrieved 18 April 2013. 

Starbird, Glenn (1983). "A Brief History of Indian Legislative Representatives". Maine State Law and Legislative Reference Library. Retrieved 17 April 2013.

Penobscot Tribal Nation.  "Donna Loring." Penobscot Culture. Penobscot Tribal Nation. Retrieved 4 April 2013.

Senier, Siobhan. "A Penobscot Musical in the Making". Indigenous New England Literature. Retrieved 5 April 2013.


Donna M. Loring


2015 2016


Carl Bumbaca, UNH '14


Donna Loring. Used with permission.











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