By Nea Maaty and Adonis Huggins
– March 2022 –
Agencies serving the Indigenous community in Toronto estimate there are 70,000 Indigenous people living in the city. Many Indigenous habitants reside in the downtown, low-income neighbourhoods of Regent Park, Moss Park and St. James Town. However, far too often, Indigenous residents are invisible and only reflected in issues related to homelessness. In an effort to change this, there is a need for stories that better reflect the diversity of Indigenous communities. In recognition of this fact and in honour of International Women’s Day, we present a conversation with Sandi Boucher.
Sandi Boucher is an Indigenous author, storyteller, social activist, and motivational speaker who identifies herself as a Red Thunderbolt woman of the Moon Clan, and a proud member of Seine River First Nation located in Northwestern Ontario.
Boucher feels that her role in life is to empower people by renewing their beliefs in themselves and by increasing awareness of their own capacity and their gifts.
She begins her story by talking about her childhood, as the daughter of loving and respectful parents. Boucher’s father was French and her mother was Indigenous. When she was 17, the loss of her father through illness affected her greatly. Boucher said her father was someone who at a young age, gave her the confidence to believe that she could be whoever she wanted to be. However, that began to change after his death when she saw that her mother was treated differently when they were alone. This made her aware of the discrimination against Indigenous women.
After the loss of her father, Boucher began to lose her self-confidence and got caught up in an abusive relationship, which she feels is not unusual for Indigenous young women, often as a result of generational trauma. After several years of dealing with violence, Boucher found the strength to leave the relationship with her two children and begin the process of healing.
Her mother was instrumental to this healing. Boucher said her mom was an amazing Indigenous woman who was wise, full of stories and gave her much power and strength. The other thing that was instrumental to her healing: her passion for writing. Boucher didn’t know she would become an author but diaries were always part of her life.
“Writing has always been how I made sense of my world, especially because as an Indigenous young woman, the world didn’t make sense to me,” Boucher said.
The author’s journey was a long one. After leaving her abusive relationship, Boucher’s first job was as a social worker for an Indigenous women’s shelter and she was surprised by how much love she had for this job. The thing she enjoyed most was helping others. This led her to seek a job with an Indigenous not-for-profit employment organization as a secretary. Boucher’s desire to rise up the ladder of this organization prompted her to return to school. In time, she was able to achieve her goal of becoming an Executive Director and leading a 4 million-dollar Indigenous organization. After several years in the job, Boucher discovered another desire – to be a full-time writer.
She always loved writing and when Boucher published her first book titled, Honorary Indian – it was the first time she had shared her writings with others. In Honorary Indian, the author shares the teachings of her Ojibwe mother, recounting a story for each day. This book was followed by a second publication titled, Her Mother’s Daughter, another daily motivational guide. Boucher wrote her next book, The Path, as an action plan to reconciliation for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous readers. Her latest book is, I am Awaken, about conscious awareness.
Boucher feels her goal in life is to help others see their light. She does this through her activism, her books and through her stories and speaking engagements. Whichever method she uses, Sandi Boucher’s messages have a common theme – everyone has a valuable gift to share!
Nea Maaty and Adonis Huggins are journalists with the Focus Media Arts Centre ~ a partner of The Corner.