“Aboriginal people and government must make Economic Development - self-sustaining job creation and business growth an everyday priority. A real decent paying job that provides real opportunity is the very best social program on any Rez!”

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Chief Clarence Louie

Aboriginal Relations | First Nation Economic Development | First Nation Governance

Since December 1984 when first elected as Chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band, part of the Okanagan Nation in south central British Columbia, Chief Clarence Louie has consistently emphasized economic development as a means to improve his people’s standard of living. Under his direction (20+ years), the Band has become a multi-faceted corporation that owns and manages nine businesses and employs hundreds of people. In 1998, the Osoyoos Indian Band Development Corporation was formed to manage and provide strategic direction to the existing businesses and as well as seek out new economic opportunities.

Other achievements under Chief Louie’s tenure include the negotiated settlement of three Specific Land Claims, the successful negotiation of over 1,000 acres of lease developments, the acquisition of hundreds of acres of land to add to the reserve, the purchase of a viable off-reserve business, the financing of a major golf course development, the initiation of the Osoyoos Indian Taxation By-law, the financing and building of a new pre-school/daycare and grade school/gymnasium, construction of a new Health Center/Social Services building and in 2008 the building of a 1st class Youth Centre.

The Osoyoos Indian Band has modeled not only sustainable business development, but also socio-economic development, whereby the community’s social needs are improved. Chief Louie’s constant message is, “Socio-economic development is the foundation for First Nation self-reliance, our communities need to become business minded and begin to create their own jobs and revenue sources, not just administer underfunded government programs. Each of our First Nations must take back their inherent and rightful place in the economy of their territory. Native people must change their mindset from; Spending Money To Making Money”.

As confirmation of the Osoyoos Indian Band’s commitment to business, the Band owns and operates nine businesses on the reserve, including: vineyards, retail stores, a construction company, a Readi-Mix company, a championship golf course, eco-tourism businesses and activities in the Forest Division. In 2002 the Band opened the first Aboriginal winery in North America-Nk’Mip Cellars. The winery is a joint venture with Vincor International.

Although economic development is the means to achieving self-sufficiency, Chief and Council continues to emphasize the importance of maintaining the Okanagan language and culture in all aspects of the band’s activities including business. The establishment of the Nk’Mip Desert& Cultural Center is a testament to this commitment of balancing business while investing time and money in culture. This eco-cultural center provides visitors an opportunity to experience the Okanagan culture and explore the desert lands that are a part of their traditional territory. The Nk’Mip Desert & Cultural Center is also an example of the continued growth of the band’s businesses.

Chief Louie believes that job creation and increasing business revenue in a responsible manner will bring back what he describes as, “our working culture, the self-supporting lifestyle of our ancestors.” And further, First Nation leaders have a responsibility to incorporate First Nation’s language and culture in all socio-economic initiatives as the means to improve and protect your First Nation’s heritage. In 2002, Chief Louie played a key role in the successful negotiations to return a sacred cultural site, “Spotted Lake,” to the Okanagan Nation.

Chief Louie’s efforts have been widely recognized in Canada and the United states:

In 1999, he received the Aboriginal Business Leader Award from All Nations Trust and Development Corporation.
In 2000, the Advancement of Native Development officers (CANDO) named Chief Louie the “Economic Developer of the Year”
In the same year Clarence was chosen to join the Governor General of Canada in the 2000 leadership tour.
In 2001 Chief Louie was appointed to the Aboriginal Business Canada Board and in 2007 was appointed as Chair of the Board.
In 2002- Aboriginal Tourism B.C. awarded Chief Louie the “Inspirational Leadership Award.” Maclean’s Magazine listed Chief Clarence Louie as one of the “Top 50 Canadians to Watch” in their January 2003 issue.
More recognition came in 2003 as the U.S. Department of State selected Clarence as 1 of 6 First Nation representatives to participate in a 2-week tour of successful American Indian Tribes.
In 2004, the Aboriginal Achievement Foundation presented Clarence with the award for “Business and Community Development.” The National Achievement Awards represent the highest honor the Aboriginal Community bestows upon its own achievers.
He is a committee member on a number of INAC and Aboriginal Boards
2006 – received the “Order of British Columbia”
2008 – Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year
2011 – Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business – Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame
2015 – Destination BC Board of Directors
2015 – BC Provincial Health Services Authority Board of Directors

A lifelong student of “Native American Studies”, Clarence shares his experiences (Keynote Speaking) and best lessons learned to Native people, Government and Corporate agencies across the U.S and Canada as well as overseas – Australia, in a simple direct business smarts approach, “Every First Nation comes from a working culture. Our ancestors worked hard for a living. Today life is as complicated or messed up as you make it. To improve your quality of life, you either go to school or get a job. Words without action, excuses and blame, leads towards more welfare dependency and poverty. It’s hard work and making money that improves one’s standard of living and provides for First Nation social needs.”

Chief Louie believes that “Aboriginal people and government must make Economic Development – self-sustaining job creation and business growth an everyday priority. A real decent paying job that provides real opportunity is the very best social program on any Rez!”

The Osoyoos Indian Band’s corporate motto is “In Business To Preserve Our Past By Strengthening Our Future.”

Chief Clarence Louie has spoken at Native government and industry conferences in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Paris, and all over U.S and Canada. He is in high demand across Canada as a leader, consultant, educator, advocate and businessman.

A few of his past clients include:

Resland (U.S.)
Canadian Construction Association
Husky Oil
li>Navajo Housing Authority
Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce
C. Surgical Society
Scugogg First Nation
Horse Lake First Nation
Sampson Cree First Nation

Topic Presentations


How to engage Indigenous People to become self-sufficient.








Economic Development is the savior of any First Nation. It keep everyone gainfully employed, busy and prosperous.

First Nations have had a rough time in North America. Let Chief Louis give you the highlights and lowlights of its history.

Accountability, leadership, governance are three ingredients to a sound structure on Reserves. How must they work together to make things thrive?

Youth is the future of First Nations in Canada. How do we engage them, keep them pre-occupied, keep them in school longer, keep them involved in sports and other healthy pursuits?

What's your vision? How will you get there? Can you manage?

This will be an explanation of the problems, issues and opportunities facing First Nations in Canada today.

Getting along with Provincial, Federal and local governments, obeying their laws, and respecting their ways and their customs help. It works both ways.

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