Penobscot Nation v. Janet Mills: A Case of Cultural Identity and Tribal Stewardship

Lecture Series Donna M. Loring Lecture Series

Chief Kirk Francis

Penobscot Indian Nation Chief Kirk Francis

For this year's Donna M. Loring Lecture, UNE welcomes Penobscot Nation Chief Kirk Francis, who will discuss the history of and recent rulings in the Penobscot River case, Penobscot Nation v. Janet Mills.

Because the Penobscot people are a riverine culture, members of the Penobscot Nation argue that this lawsuit represents a fight for their cultural survival. The Penobscot River has been exploited for industry, causing widespread pollution that endangered the health and well-being of the plants and animals who live in the river, as well as the Penobscot people. The Penobscot Nation asserts its right to care for and protect the waters that have sustained them. The most recent ruling, which limits the Tribe's sovereignty to the land surrounding the River, jeopardizes the subsistence fishing practices of the Penobscot people and their way of life. This case takes on the state of Maine's history of not upholding treaty rights, and is a fight for the sovereignty of the Penobscot Nation.

Chief Francis will discuss the nuances of the case and look at where the Penobscot Nation will go from here.


Chief Francis was born and raised at Indian Island, Maine, the home of the Penobscot Nation.  He has deep cultural ties to the people, the land, and the river. He is an avid outdoorsman practicing the traditions of hunting and fishing for which his family is well known.

Chief Francis has served as Chief of the Penobscot Nation since 2006.  Before becoming Chief he served in many leadership roles within the Penobscot Nation including chairing various committees and serving three terms as a member of the Tribal Council. He was first elected to the Council at 21 years old and when elected Chief he was the second youngest to be elected to this position in the modern era. Chief Francis graduated from Old Town High School in 1987, and attended the Bridgeton Academy and the University of Southern Maine where he majored in Business Administration.

Beyond his local service, Chief Francis also serves as a national leader on many issues facing Native people. He was recently appointed as President of the United Southern and Eastern Tribes (USET), after serving as that organization's treasurer.

Assigned Reading

For more information about the case:


Refreshments will be provided.


Maine Women Writers Collection, Environmental Studies


Cathleen Miller

(207) 221-4334

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12:00 PM
Harold Alfond Forum, 230/231

Biddeford Campus

Free and open to the public