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Donna M. Loring Lecture Series

The Maine Women Writers Collection sponsors the Donna M. Loring Lecture Series, which addresses current or historic Native American or aboriginal issues, indigenous rights, as well as women’s issues, civil rights, and issues of fairness and equality as they overlap with the concerns of tribal peoples.

Upcoming Lectures

Teaching Wabanaki History and Culture in Maine: Challenges and Opportunities

October 8, 2019, 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Saint Francis Room, Ketchum Library, Biddeford Campus

Since 2001, Maine law has required that K-12 education incorporate Wabanaki history and culture. Donna M. Loring, who was then the Penobscot Representative to the Maine State Legislature, sponsored the legislation. This year’s Donna M. Loring Lecture assesses Maine’s progress in implementing the law. The speakers, Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin, Fiona Hopper, Social Studies Teacher Leader and Wabanaki Studies Coordinator in Portland Public Schools, and community partner Bridgid Neptune will address why this mandate is so important, how it has succeeded, and what challenges educators have yet to overcome in order to achieve its goals.


Fiona Hopper has been a language arts and ESOL teacher in the Portland Public Schools for thirteen years. She also co-founded and co-teaches “Race in the United States: Perspectives for Portland Educators,” an introductory course for Portland teachers on issues of race, racism, privilege, bias, and equity. Currently, Fiona is the social studies teacher leader and Wabanaki Studies coordinator on the district academic team. Hopper grew up in Connecticut and Vermont. She graduated in 2004 from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a double major in feminist studies and literature and a concentration in creative writing. She holds a B.S. in education from the University of Southern Maine and earned an M.A. in English from the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College in 2015.

Pender Makin, Maine’s current education commissioner, has devoted herself to the mission of public education. From 1997 to 2003, she was a classroom teacher at Fred C. Wescott Junior High School in Westbrook. She went on to became principal at The REAL School on Mackworth Island in Falmouth from 2003 to 2015. Since 2015, Makin has served as the assistant superintendent of the Brunswick School Department. Makin has served on Maine’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Group since 2014. She is also a co-founder of Collaborative for Perpetual Innovation. Makin grew up in Saco, attended local schools, and graduated from Thornton Academy. She worked as a mate and deckhand on her father’s deep-sea fishing charter boat during the summers beginning at age eight. She earned both her B.A. in English literature and her M.S. in school leadership from the University of Southern Maine and received her teacher certification from the University of New England’s Department of Education in 1996. She lives in Scarborough with her husband, Mike – a middle school science teacher – and their two rescue dogs.

Bridgid Seqoniw Neptune is a citizen of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, and grew up on and around Motahkmikuk reservation. She is the mother of two, Aselis and Molihk. In 2011 Neptune earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing and in 2016 a master’s degree in nursing. She has devoted most of her career to emergency medicine. It is her personal experience in the education system, the experiences of her community and of their children, that have motivated Neptune’s work with Portland Public Schools. She is honored to carry forward the work by tribal leaders and continue implementation of LD 291: An Act to Require Teaching of Wabanaki History and Culture.

Past Lectures

OCTOBER 1, 2018
Wabanaki Basketmaking Traditions Under Threat? Art, Culture, and the Future of Maine Indian Basketmaking
MARCH 19, 2018
Penobscot Nation v. Janet Mills: A Case of Cultural Identity and Tribal Stewardship
April 6, 2017
“Mary and Molly: In the Spirit of the Ancestors” a play by Donna M. Loring
NOVEMBER 12, 2015
Racism in Maine: Beyond Black and White
OCTOBER 28, 2014
The Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission: New Opportunities for Understanding Post-Colonialism
NOVEMBER 7, 2013
Listening with Fifteen Hearts: Life Stories of Women across Cultures
NOVEMBER 8, 2012
Winona LaDuke: Environmental Justice from a Native Perspective
OCTOBER 11, 2011
Truth and Reconciliation in Maine: a Model of Collaboration and Process of Decolonization
OCTOBER 12, 2010
Out of the Depths: A personal account of a residential school experience and the effects of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s apology many years later
OCTOBER 1, 2009
Weaving Waponahki Policy toward Decolonization

About Donna Loring

Donna Loring

Author and legislator Donna Loring grew up on Indian Island and graduated from the University of Maine at Orono with a B.A. in political science. Loring is a Vietnam veteran. Her professional background is in law enforcement, and she is a graduate of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. She was the first woman police academy graduate to become police chief in the state of Maine and served as the police chief for the Penobscot Nation during the 1980s. Loring was appointed aide de camp to then-governor Angus King and was advisor to the governor on women veterans’ affairs.

Loring was also Penobscot Tribal Representative to the Maine State Legislature. Among her legislative accomplishments, Loring authored and sponsored LD 291 “An Act to Require Teaching Maine Native American History and Culture in Maine’s Schools.” Governor Angus King signed the Act into law on June 14th 2001. The law is changing the way Maine views its history. Loring’s book, In the Shadow of the Eagle (Tilbury House, 2008) chronicles her experiences as the tribal representative to the State Legislature.

The Maine Women Writers Collection acquired Loring’s personal and literary papers in 2009. This acquisition is the first given by a Native American woman to the University’s collections. Loring’s papers enrich the research potential of the MWWC and broaden our collections to represent the varied life experiences of women authors from significant yet traditionally underrepresented groups.