- By Rick Garrick
Seine River’s Sandi Boucher was recognized with the Business Woman of the Year award at the 26th Annual Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund Business Awards in Timmins on Oct. 19.
“It was such a professional, amazingly empowering celebration,” Boucher says. “It was such a feeling of celebration, and meeting the calibre of Indigenous people in the room and celebrating all of our unique paths — it’s just amazing.”
In addition to Boucher, five other people and one company were recognized for their achievements during the awards ceremony, including Jason Okimaw for Business of the Year, Creewest GP for Corporation of the Year, Paul Giles and Melissa Hardy-Giles for Partnership of the Year, Corey Wesley for Business Man of the Year and Kris Ratte for Youth Entrepreneur of the Year.
“It was just recognition of the seven years of work I have done,” Boucher says. “And the amount of communities I have worked with and my dedication to improving things for our communities and for the individuals who come from those communities.”
Boucher created Traditionally Speaking.ca in 2010 after beginning her work as a storyteller and inspirational speaker in 2009. Her first book, Honorary Indian, was released in 2010 and her second book, Her Mother's Daughter, was released in 2013. Boucher completed training as a master facilitator of The Bridging Principles earlier this year and is now the chief operations officer with The Bridging Principles.
“As I shared in my speech, it was a direct result of losing my mom,” Boucher says. “My mom was this amazingly positive and wise Anishinabe-kwe from Couchiching First Nation, but in the eyes of mainstream (society) I came to understand that they just viewed her as uneducated. She only had a Grade 4 education, so she didn’t have that recognition (for) the teachings and the wisdoms she carried, but I understood the power of those teachings.”
Boucher says after she lost her mother, she thought of all the people who could have been helped through her mother’s teachings and wisdom.
“That wasn’t a possibility anymore, so I sat down and I wrote my first book and I designed my first seminar,” Boucher says. “Now it’s seven years later, two books and almost 50 different seminars. The effect is the proof that I am on the right path, when I get those e-mails back from people that they’ve started their own business or left an abusive relationship or gone back to school because they heard me speak or attended one of my seminars. That’s her wisdom coming across in my work.”
Boucher began delivering her seminars in northern Ontario, but now delivers them across Canada on a regular basis.
“I also do cross-cultural communications,” Boucher says. “I work with mainstream and help them to understand the differences and how to adjust how they do things to build bridges to the Indigenous community.”
Boucher also delivered a seminar in Finland this year.
“Finland is now experiencing the influx of the Syrian refugees and they’re having some cultural clashes,” Boucher says. “So they brought in teachers and trainers from all over the world and I got a chance to go.”
Boucher says her experience in Finland was “amazing.”
“I was really happy to go over there because I think the knee-jerk reaction is always we want the newcomers to become just like us,” Boucher says, “and as an Indigenous woman I got to say: ‘Unless you want to be like Canada 40 years from now, don’t ever try to take someone’s culture away.’”
Boucher previously received the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce’s 2016 Business Person of the Year award.