Commander among four honored with state accolade

12 years ago

    PORTLAND — Houlton Band of Maliseet Tribal Chief Brenda Commander was one of four women recognized Sept. 18 as the University of New England celebrated a long-held tradition of honoring outstanding Maine women of achievement at the 51st Annual Deborah Morton Convocation and Awards Ceremony, at the Eleanor DeWolfe Ludcke ’26 Auditorium on the Portland Campus.
    The Deborah Morton award, first presented in 1961, was the first annual award in Maine to honor women’s achievements, specifically those who have achieved high distinction in their careers and public service or whose leadership in civic, cultural or social causes has been exceptional.
Photo courtesy of Fox Hollow Photography and Design
NE-CLR-Maliseet-dcx3-pt-38WEBRECEIVES AWARD — Brenda Commander, tribal chief for the Houlton Band of Maliseets, was one of four women honored at the Annual Deborah Morton Convocation and Awards Ceremony

    This year’s event paid tribute to four new inductees: Susan A. Carlisle, Donna Lee Litchfield Cheney, Chief Brenda Commander and Wendy J. Wolf, MD, MPH.
    Chief Commander was elected in 1997 as the first women chief in the history of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, Commander continues to serve as tribal chief, now in her fourth term, the longest tenure of any currently serving Wabanaki Chief who leads a community inside Maine. In her role, she is responsible for overseeing the entire operations and functions of the Maliseet Tribal government.
    Along with the support of the Tribal Council, she has testified before the Maine legislature on a multitude of issues. Among her highest priority is advocating for the rights of Native children and their families within the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, including resolving differences with DHHS regarding the Indian Child Welfare Act.
    Prior to 1997, she served for 10 years as the band’s finance director, ensuring that tribal funds were fairly and equitably distributed. In total, she has worked for the Tribe for the past 30 years.
    Commander has also been active in promoting prevention related to domestic violence and sexual assault within her community. Under her leadership, the Tribe received funding in 1998 to develop the Maliseet Domestic Violence Program, which led to the opening of an emergency shelter in 2009. Another major accomplishment is the Tribal State Indian Child Welfare Agreement, which mandates greater Tribal authority in cases regarding child welfare.
    She has been recognized by the American Association of University Women of Maine with the “Women in Government” Award, and with the International Rotary Club Paul Harris Fellow Award. Earlier this year, Maine Governor Paul LePage appointed her to the “Permanent Commission of the Status of Women.” A graduate of Husson College (now Husson University), she is also a member of Maine Development Foundation’s Leadership Maine Sigma Class.
    The event has honored more than 180 Maine women in the past 51 years including Margaret Chase Smith, May Sarton, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Dahlov Ipcar and former Maine First Lady Mary Herman.