Sandi Boucher went from being an indigenous woman desperately searching for safe spaces to one who creates them for others, from absolute poverty that had her selling furniture to feed her children to the owner of not one but TWO thriving businesses, from a woman who was desperately trying to find her voice to one whose voice now inspires a nation to reconcile. And she takes none of it for granted! Through her work, Sandi supports both sides of Canadian reconciliation by creating safe spaces, not only for indigenous peoples but for non-indigenous as well. An Ojibwe woman who knows full well the devastation of colonialism, it is her wisdom, her experience, and her metaphors that have made Sandi Boucher an internationally recognized speaker and best-selling author. A proud member of Seine River First Nation, Sandi began her speaking career in 2009. Now more than a decade later, Sandi continues to empower change. For more information on Sandi and her work, please visit: www.sandiboucher.com and www.reconciliationworkscanada.ca
Shauna Kosoris: How did you get your start as an inspirational speaker?
Sandi Boucher: Honestly, I didn’t set out to be an inspirational speaker. My goal was to become the BOSS of a non-profit employment and training agency as that is the work I had been doing for twenty years. And I succeeded! But when you reach your “life goal” and you are only in your 40s, you start looking for another goal. That is when two things happened that made my path clear – one, my mother (and mentor and best friend) passed away suddenly. And two, I had noticed that after twenty years of supporting the Indigenous communities my agency worked with, I wasn’t seeing any dramatic change in financial or life circumstances for the community residents. After some investigation, I stumbled upon the reality that the people we were trying to help couldn’t picture (or really didn’t believe) themselves in anything but an impoverished state. They lacked hope so I set out to be the missing link, supporting the agencies I used to work for by inspiring the community members. I wrote my first book, designed my first seminar, and here we are!
What can you tell me about your new book, I Am Awake?
I am Awake can best be described as “Honorary Indian meets The PATH”. To explain, Honorary Indian was my first book, coming out in 2010. It dealt with grief and the healing process. In 2015, Her Mother’s Daughter came out, more an inspiring daily life guide. In 2019, The PATH came out, a literal action plan to get Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians to and through reconciliation. So, I Am Awake is the healing and teachings of my first book, with the activism that is my everyday life now. It is me, after a long healing journey and I think that applies to many.
I Am Awake is made up of some of your daily blog posts. Was it difficult to go through and choose which ones to include in the book?
No, not really. After all, I release my blog posts daily to the public. I knew which ones had resonated with them by their comments and reactions on social media. I let them show me what they needed.
So what was your favourite blog post that you included in I Am Awake?
That is like being asked to choose your favourite child! Honestly, I think the explanation of WHY I started every blog post with the phrase “I am Awake, I am Alive” resonates with me. To me that phrase was a great daily reminder of what was being required of me, of everyone, if we ever hope to reconcile this country.
Several of your other books, including Honorary Indian and Her Mother’s Daughter, are also daily motivational guides. Why does this format appeal so much to you?
Let’s face it, reconciliation is A HUGE TOPIC, and so is healing and/or attempting to be inspired in this crazy life we are all living. That, coupled with the fact that I am trying to educate adults with insanely busy lives made the shorter blog post the ideal framework. It’s 2-3 minutes of your day, allowing you to consume the post and perhaps sit with it and consider it throughout the remainder of the day. It’s a journey to understanding or inspiration or healing, taken one step, or in this case, one blog post at a time.
What are you working on now?
Another book of course! (I have always said it would be easier for me to give up BREATHING that it would be to give up writing.). This one is a totally different framework, one that is most definitely challenging me. Not sure when it will come out. 2024 at the very earliest but more probably, 2025.
That’s exciting – good luck with it! I’d like to finish up with a few questions about reading. What book or author inspired you to write?
I have always loved reading but I wouldn’t say any author or book inspired me to write. Rather, it was simply something I always did. I was the 8-year old with the diary and the 22-year old with a journal. Writing has always been how I made sense of my world so … again, as natural as breathing to me (if not more).
Is there a book or author that you think everyone should read?
The PATH (shameless plug of my own book). I am committed to reconciling this country and that book is an easy read (many read it in one day but then they read it 20 times, because it quickly becomes a reference manual). I explain complex things in simple, easy-to-digest terms, so yes, I wish all would read it, at least once.
That’s definitely a book that all Canadians should read. Finally, what are you currently reading?
Just finished, Think Again by Adam Grant (highly recommend!). I don’t read fiction. Next, I am tackling Brené Brown’s Atlas of the Heart.