Smoke signals. (Grand Ronde, Or.) 19??-current, December 15, 2017, Page 11, Image 11

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    S moke S ignals
DECEMBER 15, 2017
A story of hope and healing
Tribe’s drug and alcohol counselor wrote a book detailing his addiction and recovery
By Danielle Frost
Smoke Signals staff writer
Joe Martineau endured a child-
hood few could imagine. Taken
from his Reservation as a young boy
in the early 1960s, he lived in more
than a dozen foster homes before
he was a teen. There, Martineau’s
“Indian” identity was mentally and
physically battered. He suffered
sadistic beatings, hard labor and
total isolation as punishment.
“I truly thought I could never
heal from lifelong scars which I
could feel all the way to my core,”
Martineau says. “I attempted
suicide shortly after I became a
He credits the Indian Child Wel-
fare Act of 1978, and a caring foster
father, with saving his life. His last
foster home as a high school stu-
dent was with a Native American
family, where he was reintroduced
to his Native culture and customs.
However, addictions to drugs
and alcohol grew to a point where
Martineau was homeless and roam-
ing the streets at 15. In his mind,
blackouts were the only form of
escape from the horrific abuse he
endured in earlier foster homes.
“I would always be drinking,
fighting and running away,” Mar-
tineau says. “No one could get me
to stop. I never thought that I was
worth it. But the people on the
streets used to tell me, ‘You don’t
belong here with us.’ And I would
say, ‘Yes I do.’ I believed that.”
Today, Martineau, 57, is the
Photo by Michelle Alaimo
Joe Martineau is the Tribe’s drug and alcohol counselor, who himself recently
celebrated 27 years of sobriety. He has a sweat lodge at his home in Amity
and he uses sweats as part of his continued spiritual journey. Here, he’s seen
by one of the Tribe’s sweat lodges.
“Awan” by
Joe Martineau
is available at
Tribe’s alcohol and drug counselor,
and recently celebrated 27 years
of sobriety. He credits his then
7-year-old daughter for inspiring
the decision to quit drinking.
“She came up to me and said,
‘Dad, you’re going to die if don’t
stop drinking. Please don’t drink
Ad created by George Valdez
anymore,’ ” he says. “That hit me
in a deep part of my soul. She was
worth it.”
His daughter, now 35, was also
the motivation behind Martin-
eau’s self-published autobiography,
“Awan,” which tells the story of his
journey. Awan means fog in the
Ojibwe language. Martineau is from
the Ojibwe Tribe and Fond du Lac
band in Minnesota, and also identi-
fies as Anishinabe, which includes
the Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi,
Oji-Cree, Mississaugas, Chippewa
and Algonquin peoples.
“She told me, ‘Wow, Dad! Detox
to director! Now that’s a story.’ ”
Martineau recounts in the open-
ing chapter how he was “mildly
annoyed” by the statement, but it
was also “amazingly true.”
“I went from foster homes to
drinking wine, rubbing alcohol, af-
ter shave and whatever else would
take me to the blackouts I needed
… as an escape from the life I was
tired of.”
He wrote that finding sobriety
was a foundation to seek what he
was really craving, which was spir-
itual recovery.
“A comment I always made was
that I wasn’t very good at drink-
ing, but I absolutely sucked at
life,” Martineau says. “Today, my
past prior to recovery seems like a
dream … a very bad dream.”
His relationships fared no bet-
ter. Martineau would became ex-
tremely jealous and controlling to
the point that his partners would
eventually tire of it and leave.
“I was searching for love, but
never having it myself, I demanded
it from women, but in my mind,
they were never able to prove it,”
he says. “Men who go through that
tend to justify their behavior … but
I always knew it was wrong. I just
didn’t know how to stop.”
After several rocky relationships
that defined his earlier life, Martin-
eau has now been married for seven
years to wife, Alice. Together, they
have eight grandchildren. The cou-
ple lives in Amity and has a sweat
lodge at their home, which is part
of Martineau’s continued spiritual
“The hardest part (of the past)
was crying for and craving a spiri-
tual connection,” he says. “I see it
a lot with my clients. There is so
much spiritual confusion. … They
feel that what they are doing by
drinking and using drugs is wrong,
so they cannot be a part of anything
sacred. Kids will ask me at the
lodge, ‘What do we have to believe
in?’ I tell them God loves us the way
our grandparents do … enough to
teach us a better way and to give
us knowledge.”
Martineau says being an author
was something he never consid-
ered. His goal was simple: Share his
story of healing with his two daugh-
ters. That evolved into sharing it
with others and eventually a book.
“Coming from the past I had
lived, there was such an incredible
amount of baggage,” he says. “It
took seven tries at in-patient facil-
ities and just as many out-patient
to get where I am today. I had to
stop blaming the foster care system
and start taking responsibility for
my drinking. I always had these
dreams of spirituality and little by
little, I was able to accept it.”
One defining moment came when
Martineau and his now ex-wife saw
the foster mom who had severely
abused him as a child.
“She was this little, frail, stooped-
over woman,” he says. “But seeing
her gave me an anxiety attack from
the memories of that whip.”
However, Martineau gathered his
courage, walked up to the woman
and said, “Mom, I forgive you,” and
then walked away.
“It’s possible to get past even
that,” he says.
Martineau’s 11 siblings have all
struggled with substance abuse.
One of his sisters has been in treat-
ment more than 30 times.
“She is very addicted,” he says.
“There are some things she just
can’t get rid of.”
However, Martineau’s mother
was a big inspiration once he decid-
ed to permanently “plug the bottle.”
“My mom had 42 years of sobriety
when she died in 2013,” he says.
“She continued to drink well after
she lost us to foster care, but then
once woke up in a mental hospital
with a guy banging his head into
a wall, and said that was enough.
She was done.”
Despite a horrific childhood and
severe alcohol abuse, Martineau
now has peace, saying that it was
all a part of “the creator’s plan.”
“Most people that lived like I did
are either dead now, have perma-
nent brain damage or are in pris-
on,” he says. “I have lost so many
relatives from early death. That
was the path I was on.”
Above Martineau’s desk, high
up where he can see it as he walks
into the office every day, is a moti-
vational sign that also serves as a
“Whether you have one day or
one thousand days, you are an
inspiration. You have one day that
someone else hasn’t reached.” 