Empowered and Inspired: Sandi Boucher is Living Her Dream on Stage
“I don't work. I'm living my dream,” says Sandi Boucher. A proud member of Seine River First Nation in Northern Ontario, from Treaty Three territory, she’s been working full time as an inspirational speaker and author for over a decade. “Every word I say is my choice, whether it's my books, the seminars I create or these interviews, it is the definition of empowerment. Way more Indigenous people need to know what this feels like,” she continues.
“I've always said it would be easier for me to give up breathing than it would writing. I can't remember not writing.”
Becoming an author came naturally to her. “Writing has always been the way I make sense of my world. I could be either talking to myself, or in some cases, after my father passed away, a lot of my entries were me talking to him the way I would have if he was still there. Sometimes it was talking to Creator. Whatever the case may be, I could just write for as long as I needed to to make sense,” she recounts. She certainly has a lot to write about.
A domestic violence survivor, she got married, had kids and ended up a single mother at a young age. She worked full time to support her two children as a secretary in an Indigenous employment and training agency, helping people go back to school, find a new job or start their own business. As much as she loved it, she was also ambitious.
Returning to school three times, applying on new jobs, she realized her dream of moving from the front desk to the corner office one step at a time. She went from secretary to the head of administration, then program manager, then department manager and ultimately Executive Director of a $4 million nonprofit agency in downtown Toronto. “It took 20 years, but I achieved my goal,” she smiles.
Later, her mother passed away, she grieved deeply and her perspective shifted. “It really reminded me that life is short. No one's guaranteed tomorrow. If I ever wanted to be my own boss, and in charge of my own voice, I had to do it,” she recalls. Afraid she would forget her mother’s stories and teachings, she wrote her first book, quit her job and started a career to fill a gap in the market.
“Indigenous people know resilience. We know disappointment. We know challenges. It was just taking what life had taught me and applying it to my business.”
She became one of the few Indigenous motivational speakers, went on to write four books and created countless seminars to address challenges she saw in community: self sabotage, a lack of self esteem, internalized oppression. Boucher wanted to help Indigenous people believe in themselves.
School was a place where Boucher started to believe in herself. “As an Indigenous woman in this country, you hear the messages that you're less than, you're never going to amount to anything… I loved that realm. Because there I had the ability to prove I had value. It was harder outside of the educational institutions, but there I could excel.”
Her advice to Indigenous youth considering leaving their home community to pursue work and school is insightful. “If you don't fit into the boxes that are available, one, you're probably not wrong, and two, create your own.” Boucher also believes Indigenous people need to create their own ways of measuring success instead of measuring against mainstream definitions. She wishes there were more Indigenous speakers, believing Canadians need to be learning from Indigenous voices about Reconciliation, and that bigger change would be possible and faster through more Indigenous voices.
“It wasn't until I made it all the way to the top of the food chain and I'm looking out the window from my corner office going when did this happen? They said this couldn't happen. I was so busy working, that I didn't even realize what I was achieving,” Boucher explains. Since then, she’s thrived as a motivational speaker, never doing cold calls, instead relying on word of mouth.
“This has been a journey in how much do I believe in myself? How resilient am I? Can I get back up after a fall?”
She started by doing a YouTube video every day, sharing inspiration until First Nations communities started to reach out. Even during COVID, she found work speaking on Zoom, but she had hard moments, too. $48,000 of events canceled in 24 hours and she had to rebuild. Luckily, that’s what she does best. “I was like, ‘Okay, Sandy, you started from zero before you can do it again. Get busy.’ My business is now stronger than ever before,” she says proudly. Outside of her speaking and writing, she spends time with her children and grandchildren and also reading.
Sandi Boucher says she doesn’t work, because she’s living her dream. Every word she says is her choice and for Boucher, it is the definition of empowerment. She wants more Indigenous people to know what that feels like… and that’s why she’s helping them believe in themselves. She went from the reception desk to the stage and she’s living her own definition of success. Life is short and no one's guaranteed tomorrow, but her future is looking brighter every day.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program.
Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.