2017 IW Winners

Aboriginal Leadership - Thunder Bay

Sandi Boucher

Sandi Boucher

It all started with a book.

In 2005, Sandi Boucher’s mother – and her greatest teacher – died, leaving Boucher unsure which path to take next. In part to honour her mother and in part to ensure her teachings didn’t disappear, Boucher wrote a book containing those words of wisdom. And then, because her mother couldn’t fit into one book, Boucher wrote one more.

“She was a beautiful, strong Indigenous woman,” Boucher said. “I knew the strength of her stories, and I love the fact that now 12 years on, she is still helping people around the world every single day. It goes to show how universal our teachings are.”

Both books have since become bestsellers, which helped fuel her own story. Realizing that literacy could be a barrier, she turned the books into a seminar called “A Day that Can Change Everything.” From there, she built a career as a motivational speaker, helping empower Indigenous women, youth, and communities across northwestern Ontario through workshops, speeches, and mentorship.

“The slogan I always use is ‘Fighting for Our Future.’ Obviously, there are a lot of things in the last 150 years I could have lived without, but we can’t change the past. We can only learn from it. My focus is the next 150,” she said.

Boucher also provides guidance and information to government agencies, businesses, and non-profits that work with Indigenous people.

“I help educate them on cross-cultural communications,” Boucher said. “They may not know what the issues are, but they realize that there is one. I take so much hope from that. We realize change is needed and now we are walking through this together.”

Boucher’s message for her Indigenous audiences isn’t about joining the mainstream, but simply learning to live within it.

“I am who I am. I am traditional, but I exist and operate in a mainstream world. It’s the reason why I run my own company, so that I can do it in line with my values and my teaching, and honour who I am while earning a good living,” she said.

“I can learn from every other person, every culture, but it doesn’t mean I have to become that culture. They just help me become a better version of me.”

Boucher said that part of what made her who she is today is her own personal journey of abusive relationships, alcoholism, and poverty.

“At the core, I always knew it was the situation I was in, not who I am. That’s what I share with my Indigenous audiences, that our economic standing or social situation is not who we are. We have to start identifying who we are, and living up to that ideal.”

Boucher is a role model as much as a leader in that way.

“I did it, and it’s not because I’m better than anyone else. It’s because I was lucky enough to have good teachers, and now it’s my job to be one of those teachers.”

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