Toni Bouchey

What Education have you Taken?

I am finishing up my third year at Brandon University. I am getting a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Native Studies and minoring in English and Psychology.

What accomplishments are you proud of?

I have been an active member of the Brandon University Aboriginal Student Council for the past 3 years. Before I came to university I ran a free after school dance program for the children in my community and volunteered with multiple literacy programs, teaching Aboriginal adults and children with learning disabilities how to read.  I have received a Junior Citizens Award when I graduated high school for my dedication in the community as a dance instructor and positive role model.

Tell me about yourself/your background/ your history

My name is Toni Anne Bouchey, Tansi, nitisīyihkāson.  I am from a reserve north of Winnipeg called Fisher River. I am the youngest of a large family of five.  I spent most of my younger years living in Fisher River. When I was eleven my parents moved the remainder of my family up north.  My family moved every year after that until I was fifteen.  I was very fortunate my parents moved often – it allowed me to see different places, experience different community dynamics and afforded me more opportunities growing up. When I was fifteen we moved to a small farm town in Saskatchewan.   My parents, only having me left, decided to stay there until I finished high school.  My high school experience was great, challenging at times, seeing that I was the only Aboriginal person in my school. Throughout high school I encountered racism in the form of blind ignorance.  Because of this I developed a voice and a passion for my culture and educating others about Aboriginal issues.  After high school I took a year off to travel and secure my ideas about what I wanted to do with my life.

How did you become interested in your field of study?

In kindergarten I wanted to be a missionary and it was my dream to move to a third world country to build schools and be a teacher. As I got older and as I moved around I started to see the problems that exist on reserves – high suicide rates, poverty, lack of education, poor quality of living. I couldn’t justify leaving this country and trying to help another when my own people needed helping of their own. Growing up I have seen the wonderful things a caring heart can do. My mother and father are both teachers and are so generous and quick to love, that every place we lived they have left a huge impact on that community. I want to do that – I want to impact people’s lives, I want to change all the negative ways society views Aboriginal people. I believe I can do that through education – if I can encourage one child from any reserve to go to University and become something, that child will go back and encourage another and another, and slowly the dynamic on reserves and among Aboriginal people will change. I want to be the one teacher a kid has that they remember, maybe not by name but by their kind actions and words of encouragement.  I am going to be a catalyst in the lives of the future generation of Aboriginal doctors, teachers, social works, policemen.

What is your philosophy in life?

My philosophy on life is this.  At the end of my life I am going to look down at my hands, they are going to be ugly and worn. The wear of my entire life will be on my hands and I will know I had a good life. They will be rough, ragged and humble because I have had to work hard for what I have and I will cherish each burn, scar and scrape because they will remind me of all the wonderful things I have been blessed with.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

After gaining experience as a teacher I plan to spend my last few teaching years in my home town.

Nominator’s Comments                      

Toni Bouchey is an exceptional young aboriginal women at BU who helped initiate the Idle No More movement here in Brandon.  Toni continues to do a lot of work within the community and BU.  She is a fabulous nominee who I am honoured to know!