University of New England - Innovation for a Healthier Planet

Donna M. Loring papers, 1956–2016, undated

Full finding aid (pdf) | Digitized material | Online exhibit

Collection Scope and Content

The Donna M. Loring papers offer an in-depth perspective into the work of Maine’s tribal representatives, and to Donna Loring’s experience and work in the legislature, specifically. In addition to documenting her service in the legislature, the papers contain drafts of Loring’s autobiographical work In the Shadow of the Eagle: A Tribal Representative in Maine (2008). There are materials related to the history of Maine’s tribes, the Maine Indian Land Claims settlement, and Native arts and culture. The collection contains evidence of Loring’s overseas military service during the Vietnam War and her work with Vietnam Women Veterans. There is correspondence, documentation of Loring’s community and professional activities, private writings, photographs, films, CDs, and memorabilia.

Though the papers are divided into seven series, many of the files are interconnected by the thread of Loring’s service in the Maine Legislature. Series 2, Legislative files, is the largest series in the collection, representing the broad scope of bills that the legislature reviews every year, as well as legislation that Representative Loring had a significant role in crafting. Throughout the papers, there are materials related to LD 291: A Law to Teach About Maine’s Native Americans (2001), which was one of the major achievements of Loring’s legislative service. There are documents in series 2 and 3 that illustrate the collaborations that were essential to make this piece of legislation successful, and some of the resulting curricula. There is also material related to LD 2418: An Act Concerning Offensive Names (2000). The reactions to this legislation are informative about the prejudices that exist about Native people in the state and around the nation. One particularly notable piece is a videocassette that contains an interview with Donna Loring for 20/20 about LD 2418, which is housed in series 7, Audio-Visual Materials. This collection is a rich resource for researchers interested in the unique role of Maine’s Tribal Representatives, the history and current state of affairs for the Wabanaki people of Maine, and state politics in Maine.

Some materials from this collection have been digitized and can be viewed in this online exhibit of images and documents, while a small amount of correspondence is available in DUNE:DigitalUNE.

Biographical/Historical Note

Donna M. Loring was born in 1948 to Julia Elizabeth Neptune and George Loring, Jr. A member of the Penobscot Indian Nation, Donna Loring spent her childhood years on Indian Island, Maine, where she was raised by her grandmother. Her mother died at the age of thirty-five, when Loring was ten years old. Loring attended high school at Old Town High School and Glen Cove Christian Academy in Rockport, Maine.

In 1966, Loring joined the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). She attended basic training at Fort McClellan in Alabama, and served at Fort Gordon in Georgia and Fort McArthur in California. From November 1967-November 1968, Loring served as a Communications Specialist at Long Binh Army Base, north of Saigon. She processed all of the casualty reports for Southeast Asia, and served during the TET Offensive.

After returning from Vietnam, Loring graduated from the University of Maine at Orono with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. She graduated from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in 1978, and served as Police Chief for the Penobscot Nation from 1984-1990. She was the first woman graduate of the Criminal Justice Academy to become a police chief in the state of Maine. In 1992, Loring became the first woman director of security at Bowdoin College, a position she held until 1997. Loring was a member of the Maine Chiefs of Police for eleven years.

On March 17, 1999, she was appointed aide de camp to then-governor Angus King, and was commissioned with the rank of colonel by the governor. Loring served as an advisor to Governor King on women veterans’ affairs. Donna Loring served as the Penobscot Nation’s Representative to the Maine State Legislature from 1998-2003, and again from 2007-2008. Loring’s book In the Shadow of the Eagle: A Tribal Representative in Maine, which chronicles her legislative service, was published by Tilbury House in 2008. Loring served as the Penobscot Nation’s Coordinator of Tribal, State and International Relations through the 121st Legislature. She also served as a member of the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Judiciary. During her legislative career, Loring authored and sponsored LD 291 “An Act to Require Teaching Maine Native American History and Culture in Maine’s Schools,” which was signed into law in 2001. She also conceptualized and advocated for the first “State of the Tribes Address” in Maine history. Tribal chiefs addressed a joint session of the legislature on March 11, 2002, for the first time in Maine Legislative history.

Loring also served as a select person for the Town of Richmond. She attended the Flemming Fellows Leadership Institute and the Eleanor Roosevelt Global Leadership Institute. She served on the board of the Maine Community Foundation for nine years. She also served on the boards of Northeast Historic Film, Maine Advisory Committee to the US Commission on Civil Rights, Coastal Enterprises Incorporated, the Chancellor’s Diversity Task Force, and the Margaret Chase Smith Center.

In 2011, Donna M. Loring received the Deborah Morton Award from the University of New England, which is awarded to women whose leadership in civic, cultural or social causes has been exceptional. Loring is currently a lecturer and consultant, and President and CEO of Seven Eagles Media Productions, a non-profit that she founded as an educational corporation to bring vision and voice to Native people. In 2019, Governor Janet Mills appointed Loring as Senior Advisor on Tribal Affairs to the Governor. Donna Loring lives in Bradley with her wife Deborah Bouchard.