I am an Indigenous person who was adopted by a non-Indigenous family. As a child I always felt the need to act in a certain way to feel accepted or to feel like I belonged. I was raised by a family who loved me, and I grew up surrounded by a church community. Yet there were many events that happened to me beyond my control that affected how I acted. When I was able to read some of the case files from my childhood, I read that I was separated at birth from my biological mother and that I was moved around a dozen times before the age of 2, which was when I arrived at the Stelters’ home. The files said I was sent to several child psychologists as a result of aggressive behavior. There was even a period of time when I was on medication to calm me down, but apparently that didn’t work too well either. The main thing that helped me calm down wasn’t the therapy sessions or medication, it was being in a loving and accepting family.
As I’ve been trying to finish my doctoral studies, I have read far more literature than I normally would in my own spare time. I read academic journals, government reports, and many different types of historical records. I came across a report by Environics Institute for Survey Research. It was titled Canadian Public Opinion on Aboriginal Peoples. Within this 2016 56-page report there was a section that went over the biggest challenges facing Aboriginal peoples. “When asked, unprompted, what they consider to be the most important challenge Aboriginal peoples face today in Canada,” the top response was, “Sense of place and acceptance in Canada.” Topping the list of challenges are issues related to struggles Aboriginal peoples face in being accepted into the Canadian social fabric.
Indigenous People are not the only people group that has faced this type of challenge. It depends on what era in history you refer to, and in what country you refer to, combined with other issues such as colonialism, oppression, or injustices. You’ll see that there have been many groups of people who feel this way. It’s just like when I was moved around a lot and then finally grew up in an adopted family. It resulted in a disconnect with my family, especially my birth mother.
When I reflected on this report and then on my own childhood, I was drawn toward Scripture. As a believer in Jesus, we learn that without Jesus in our lives we are strangers and aliens. Yet with Jesus we belong to a family of God and receive unconditional love and acceptance. Ephesians 2:19 says, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (ESV). John 1:12 says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” And Ephesians 1:5 says, “He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” These verses reinforce the hope that we have as believers in Jesus. These verses tell every person from every people group on the face of this turning planet that God through Jesus Christ loves and accepts us. This is where we find our sense of home and a place where we are adopted into the social fabric of God’s family.
When I read this report, my knee-jerk reaction was to think of my behavior in grade school right into adulthood. Most of it was built on trying to get people's attention, trying to be accepted into more popular cliques and groups. I was always dreaming of becoming someone else instead of embracing and living out who I already was. It’s sad when the Indigenous People in Canada don’t feel at home in the country they’ve lived in for hundreds of years. The same is true for any other group of people who don't feel accepted or understood.
Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Any person who is without Jesus in their hearts, and their lives falls short because of being born with a sinful nature. People or people groups who have colonized, oppressed, or persecuted others have tried desperately to feel superior and dominate others. This gave them a temporary sense of power and belonging. Yet they too are lost without Jesus. God through Jesus Christ brings all people into a family of God and belonging.
I appreciate companies like Environics who put out reports that help me understand what other members of Canada are thinking. Yet I love Scripture even more, because that’s where I find real hope, real clarification, and real insight. This is where I, as an Indigenous man who was adopted and tossed around like the wind before the age of 2, can now proudly say I’m accepted, and I belong.