Shawbonquit pursues trucking dreams
Joanne Shawbonquit remembers playing with trucks and cars in a sandbox with her neighbor after school, when she was a little girl. “The other girls were into dolls and makeup, not us two,” she recalls.
Shawbonquit, 46, a veteran trucker from Atikameksheng Anishnawbek First Nation Reserve, now hauls mining ore in Sudbury, Ont.
While her husband worked in the logging industry, Shawbonquit, who had a young son at the time, trained for and earned her A/Z licence 17 years ago. Since shorthaul jobs were not available for a driver without experience, she started working as a longhaul professional driver.
“It was not easy hearing my boy on the phone wishing I was home with him. I made a promise while sitting in the seat gaining experience – I would send my resume to local companies,” she said.
Finally, she received a phone call for an interview with a local trucking company that hauls for the mines in Sudbury and started working days later.
“I no longer work there but am still doing the same thing. As I continue to gain experience, I enjoy the work. I deliver ore from one mine to another; it changes from time to time depending on the run.”
Fourteen years later, she and her husband had their second son. She only took four months off after he was born and returned to driving a truck.
Later, she went from a big outfit to a small independent company, owned by an Aboriginal. “Now it is more relaxing. I work 12-hour shifts five days a week. I’ve been with my employer four-and-a-half years and its the best move I made.”
Keen to try new things, Shawbonquit trained and received certification for heavy equipment and grader. But she has had no luck getting work in that field. “That door shut in a hurry as I had no experience,” she said.
After a long work week, Shawbonquit likes to relax at camp sites. In summer, she can be found in a boat and in fall in a swamp.
“Hunting and fishing is what we like to do. We like teaching our boys about our culture and living off the land and family roots. Our boys are older now, they fill our freezer.”
She says when you are in the trucking industry, being a wife and mother has its ups and downs. Due to long hours and shift work, family occasions are missed, and this at times is stressful. She says support from her husband and family has helped her follow her dreams of being a trucker.
Being Indigenous and a woman, every day is a challenge. “I am an Indigenous woman and proud of it,” she said.
Shawbonquit has not seen many Aboriginal women in the industry. She makes sure to keep on top of her game. She meets a lot of good people, but there are some racists out there. She said if people take jabs at her, she comes back harder than they do.
“It should not matter what your skin color is or what family roots you have.”Joanne Shawbonquit, truck driver
“If you don’t speak up, these people will think they can do it you and other Indigenous people,” she said. “I want to work safely, go home to my family and bring home a paycheque. It should not matter what your skin color is or what family roots you have.”
Shawbonquit has a simple plan for the future – enjoy life and hopefully have grandkids some day. For now, the northern ore hauler she rolls on in her “happy place” – the driver’s seat.
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This is great news story for Joanne, happy to hear she is pursuing her dream.
Very Proud of my sister she is a hard worker and being a Female Aboriginal Truck Driver has shown her RESILENCE in trucking and to never back down from Racism. Great Work Joanne Mom and Dad be so Proud.
You’re one of the most amazing hard working women I know and I am proud to call you my friend ❤ Keep er rollin’!
Love you girl
Joanne, You should be very proud of your accomplishments! You are a fine addition to the most important industry in the world!
Take care and be proud of yourself!
Great article on Joanne, she’s not only paving a way for other women in the trucking industry but also for many Indigenous men and women. Ride on, Joanne!