Celebration and ceremony

September 27th, 2011 by Cathleen Miller

“Native people have been the invisible population. Yes, we have held a place in the state legislature for almost two hundred years. We have kept our place here simply by being persistent and staying.”  –Donna Loring, from testimony before the Joint Rules Committee, September 26, 2000 (as quoted in her book In the Shadow of the Eagle)


Last week, we celebrated Donna M. Loring’s political and professional accomplishments when she was one of four women selected to receive the Deborah Morton Award from the University of New England. During the awards ceremony, Donna spoke about a renaissance of Wabanaki voices, and about her belief that with the passage of LD 291 (An Act to Require Teaching of Maine Native American History and Culture in Maine’s Schools), Native people in Maine are finding that their voices are now a part of the cultural conversation, that people actually want to listen.

Here at the Collection, we are hoping to nurture and witness this renaissance in the coming years, and are actively collecting the work of Wabanaki women writers and artists.  It is my belief that if we do not value the voices of all people, none of our voices have power.

It was a powerful experience to work on processing the Donna M. Loring papers.  When I began working on this collection last fall, I was still so new to Maine that I didn’t know much about the political issues that affected the state’s residents.  Since the majority of Donna’s papers deal with her service in the state legislature as Penobscot Nation representative, I got an intimate view of the challenges that face the state’s four tribes, and the sometimes ugly relations between the tribes and the state.


Donna’s papers also provide an insider’s view of the legislative process.  While we may think that the work of our government is sophisticated, Donna’s papers contain traces of the communications between legislators–simply notes passed between seats.  As I worked through Donna’s legislative papers, I found myself astounded over and over by the testimony of citizens included in the files about many of the bills–there are heart-wrenching stories and brave exposures of pain in those words.  There is also hatred and misunderstanding.

In addition to the legislative material, which makes up about 9 of the 12 linear feet of the collection, there are also personal mementos of Donna’s life and accomplishments.  She served a one year tour in Vietnam during the TET Offensive (1967-1968).  Here she is at a goodbye party for her commanding officer, who had reached the end of her tour in Vietnam.

After her return from Vietnam, and her graduation from the University of Maine at Orono, Donna attended the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.  See if you can pick her out in this 1978 class photo:

Donna Loring was the first woman police academy graduate to serve as a police chief in Maine.  She served as the Chief of Police for the Penobscot Nation from 1984-1990.  She later worked as head of security at Bowdoin College–the first woman to hold this position.  Loring started her career in the state legislature in 1998, and served as aide de camp for then-Governor Angus King in 1999.  Donna Loring ended her legislative service in 2008.

We will soon have the finding aid for the Donna M. Loring papers posted on our website, but in the meantime, I welcome questions or comments from interested researchers.  We are also preparing a special web exhibit of selections from Donna’s papers.  We expect that to go live sometime in October.  Stay tuned for details soon!

Upcoming events

June 8th, 2011 by Cathleen Miller

While things have quieted down on campus since mid-May, our work has been steadily increasing to prepare for many exciting upcoming events.

We will be participating in the Harriet Beecher Stowe Society’s conference at Bowdoin College from June 23-26.

You can view the draft schedule of events to read more about the panels and events that will take place over the four days of the conference.  Jennifer Tuttle, the MWWC faculty director, will chair a panel on Stowe and Maine, and I will be chairing a panel on Stowe and the Archives.  There are some powerhouse Stowe scholars participating, so if you have a love of Stowe, this conference will be worth your time and money.  In addition to academic panels, there will be several performances, one of which is a dramatic adaptation of Stowe’s Lady Byron Vindicated by Portland playwright Carolyn GageSpeak Fully the One Awful Word promises to be powerful.  While most of the conference happens at Bowdoin College, the Stowe and the Archives panel will happen on the Portland campus of UNE, with lunch and a tour of the Maine Women Writers Collection.  I hope you will join us at the conference.

Some other events we are planning for the coming year are still in the works, but I hope you will check back for details on each of these.  The coming academic year is going to bring many wonderful things.

In September (perhaps on the 20th?), we will once again be hosting an open house following the presentation of the Deborah Morton Awards at UNE.  This year, one of our collection authors–Donna M. Loring–will be honored with the Morton Award.  We hope to be unveiling the finding aid for the completed Donna Loring papers, as well as a featured writer exhibit page to highlight Donna’s rich collection.

In honor of Fanny Fern’s 200th birthday (her 200th birthday is July 9, 2011), we will host a reading of Fern’s work, and a small birthday celebration, complete with a cake.  We will post details about this event when we have finalized a date.

In October, we have three events–our annual Donna M. Loring Lecture, a book launch for Add Verb Productions’ Out and Allied Anthology, and “Private Writing, Public Form: from journal to book,” a book arts workshop cosponsored by the Kate Cheney Chappell ’83 Center for Book Arts at University of Southern Maine.

The Donna M. Loring Lecture will feature Esther Attean, Denise Yarmal Altvater, and Martha Proulx, who will speak about their work on the Truth and Reconciliation process that seeks to address the damage done to the Wabanaki communities and Wabanaki children in Maine by the foster care system.  Indian Country Today published a good article about the recent Declaration of Intent to Create a Maine/Wabanaki Truth & Reconciliation Process signed by Altvater, Chiefs of the Wabanaki Nations, and Governor Paul LePage.  This is a very hopeful sign, and will engage a much-needed healing process for the many people who were harmed irrevocably by the criminally negligent state foster care system.  The Donna M. Loring Lecture will take place on the Biddeford campus of UNE at noon on either Tuesday, October 4, Thursday, October 6, or Tuesday, October 11.  We are finalizing the date and will post full details soon.

Our book launch to celebrate the work of Add Verb Productions’ Out and Allied Project will take  place in mid-October, date TBA.  In the meantime, go to their official book launch at Longfellow Books on Wednesday, June 15 from 7-9pm.  Or, if you are at Pride on the 18th, check out their table!

Finally, to round out October, we will present a two-day book arts workshop entitled “Private Writing, Public Form: from journal to book,” which will take place on Saturday, October 29 at the Maine Women Writers Collection and Sunday, October 30 at University of Southern Maine’s Wishcamper Center.  I will co-teach the workshop with New Hampshire bookbinder, poet, and artist Marnie Cobbs.  Please see the UNE calendar for all the details.

And if that isn’t enough for you, we are hosting our triennial academic conference from March 30-31, 2012.  The conference will serve as the MWWC academic conference and the Maine Women’s Studies Consortium conference for 2012.  Our theme is “Identity, Memory, Testimony,” which encompasses both our academic and literary mission at the collection.  We are very excited to announce that Jennifer Finney Boylan has agreed to be our keynote speaker.  We will issue a call for papers in the early fall.

Certainly, there will be more events to announce, but that should whet your appetite for the year to come.  For now, we are sneaking out when we can to enjoy the warm Maine air and the sea breezes when they come our way.  Happy Summer!