Wabanaki Tribal Member Shares Story

Joy Hollowell

Updated 1 year ago

“My name is Joshua David Gagnon.It started at five, yup and I didn’t get out of the system until I was about 18.They sent me to into Acadia Hospital at the age of five, in-patient, get evaluated. Kinda messed up in the head with everything that went on. And then, the police actually kinda took me late at night. Kinda kicked down the door, arrested my step dad tok me, took my brothers and sisters to a foster home in St. Francis with Rita Gardner. And she actually ended up adopting all of them, except for me. And left me in the system.Had countless DHS workers, different social workers. I was a problem for them, had a problem with authority. No foster home wanted me. They did try and sending me back to where my brothers and sisters were, they actually got adopted. And, um, gee. (pauses)Yeah, they actually stuck me in a long term residential, they moved me to Goodwill Hinckley, actually made good friends down there, graduated. And when they closed, they actually threw me right to the street, right at 18, they put me in Bangor, I ended up living with a friend and kinda mixing in with the wrong street crowd in Bangor.I didn’t start actually getting on my feet up until a couple of years ago. I started going through drug addiction, homeless, alcohol, everything. I’ve had 8 lives already thrown at me.Oh, family has always been kinda the thing that just stood there in the back of my mind. I wanted it but I was used to, I was always used to moving around every six months that if I didn’t move, I would actually have to act out. I got bored with staying in each spot.It’s uh, it’s complicated. I knew nothing about my culture, my heritage at all. At most of the residential group homes I loved in, they actually forbid practice of any of it. You were punished, level system, what not. You were frowned upon and what not, kinda punished for practicing. It was actually a struggle to even try to get I my eagle feather ’cause they said that there were germs and they could contaminate the place. They tried to make every excuse up to try to discourage it, I guess. Do you think you would have turned out differently if your heritage was recognized more?Oh yeah. THere were points that I was in different group homes and I would occasionally run into a Native worker and they would take me out on like the weekends and go smudging. And I would notice that I’d be doing so good after I got done doing that because I wouldn’t feel as upset, I would be stable mentally, physically, and then I did practice it, I’d end up I the same rut.My cultural piece, it actually helped me with sobriety, along with actual help. I don’t know, I’ve never been much of a spiritual person, it’s really healing.Tell me how it’s helped you.Just knowing that I always a have someone near me, have my ancestors guiding me. I have friends, family, it’s a community. And, it’s a family. Kinda the missing piece that I wanted.”


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