Women We Love 2022: Donna Loring

Donna Loring

by David Dostie

Donna Loring has been many things in her lifetime: a Vietnam veteran; a Maine state legislator; an Indigenous Persons advocate. “The various paths I have chosen, I chose out of necessity,” she tells GO. Like many of the Penobscot Tribe of Maine, Loring left at age 18 to join the military, where she served in the Women’s Army Corps and in Vietnam — an experience that shaped her philosophy regarding advocacy for Indigenous Persons. “The most important lesson I learned while serving in Vietnam was that it was easier to kill the enemy if you dehumanized them,” she says. “I was not going to let the state government dehumanize us.” Since then, she has worked to make visible Maine’s Native tribes, known collectively as the Wabanaki, meaning People of the Dawnland. She served as Police Chief for the Penobscot Nation, the first woman police academy graduate to serve as a police chief in Maine; as the first and only female Director of Security at Bowdoin College; and as a member of the Maine legislature from 1999 to 2008. In the latter capacity, she authored and sponsored an act to make the teaching of Native American history a requirement in Maine’s public schools and, in 2002, organized the first “State of the Tribes Address,” in which the Tribal Chiefs addressed the Maine State Legislature publicly for the first time in the state’s history. Now, Loring hosts the radio show Wabanaki Windows at WERU Community Radio in East Orland. “The vision,” she explains, “is for the State of Maine to recognize the Tribes and Tribal Sovereign Governments and treat them as such.” Loring has worked for 40 years to see this vision become reality. –AB

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