Annual Donna Loring lecture presents ‘One Nation, Under Fraud: A Remonstrance’

Composite image of headshots of Donna Loring, Joseph G.E. Gousse, and Eric M. Mehnert
From left: speakers Donna Loring, Joseph G.E. Gousse, and Eric M. Mehnert.

Members of the University of New England Community gathered virtually on Wednesday, Oct. 12, for the annual Donna M. Loring Lecture, hosted by the Maine Women Writers Collection.

UNE welcomed Loring, Penobscot elder and former representative to the Maine Legislature; Maine State Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross, assistant house majority leader of the Maine House of Representatives; Hon. Eric M. Mehnert, chief judge of the Penobscot Nation Tribal Court; and Joseph G.E. Gousse ’12 (Political Science), Esq., of Berman & Simmons Trial Attorneys.

The annual Donna M. Loring Lecture addresses current or historic Native American or aboriginal issues and 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. In 2009, Loring entrusted UNE and the Maine Women Writers Collection with her personal, professional, and literary papers and worked with the MWWC to institute the lecture series.

This year’s event, "One Nation, Under Fraud: A Remonstrance,” featured a conversation between Loring, Mehnert, and Gousse about the purpose of a recently published report of the same name issued by the Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous, and Tribal Populations.

The Permanent Commission was established in 2019 to examine systemic racial disparities in Maine and advise all three branches of Maine government on public policy changes that would make racial equity a central consideration in Maine lawmaking.

Their report, “One Nation, Under Fraud: A Remonstrance” — co-authored by Loring, Mehnert, and Gousse — outlines the history of tribal relations with the state of Maine and suggests a framework for remedying those relations and for redressing the centuries of fraud and cultural genocide perpetrated by the state.

At the Oct. 12 lecture, the three co-authors revealed testimony they uncovered from the 1942 Maine Legislative Research Committee, culminating in the 1942 Proctor Report that outlined plans for state and Indigenous relations.

Loring said the report is an example of what she calls Maine’s “I.C.E.” (isolation, control, and elimination) regime, a series of policy decisions carried out to block tribes’ communication with the federal government and other Indigenous communities, maintain geographic control over the tribes, and dissolve tribal culture and sovereignty.

Among other things, the Proctor Report stated that no settled land would be returned to the tribes; it also dictated rules for tribal membership. This was in direct violation of Federal Indian Law, Mehnert said, and “an affront to any theory of sovereignty.”

Further, the law called for Indigenous peoples to leave their reservations once they turned 18.

“I’ve had a first cousin directly impacted by this law. He had to leave Indian Island when he turned 18,” Loring said. “It has had generational impacts.”

Reflecting on the value of his UNE education and research on Loring’s papers at the Maine Women Writers Collection, as well as on the significance of the remonstrance, Gousse noted that “The Donna Loring Papers are … a brilliant resource for students and members of the public to access this living history that continues to this day.”

The information “is there for all of us Mainers to move forward together,” Gousse added. “We can’t go back and change what’s in the past, but we can move forward. … A lot of good can be done as far as recognizing the inherent sovereignty of these people who have been here since time immemorial.”

Watch the Full Lecture