Chief Clarence Louie

Aboriginal Indigenous and First Nation Expert

In December 1984 Chief Clarence Louie was elected as the 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. The Osoyoos Indian Band Development Corporation initiatives are to manage and provide strategic direction to the existing businesses. The OIBD also seeks out new economic opportunities.

Other achievements under Chief Clarence Louie’s tenure include the negotiated settlement of three Specific Land Claims. He also successfully negotiation of over 1,000 acres of lease developments. He also acquired hundreds of acres of land to add to the reserve. The Osoyoos Band also purchased a viable off-reserve businesses. Under his leadership the Ossoyos Band also provided financing of a major golf course development. He also facilitated the initiation of the Osoyoos Indian Taxation By-law.  Most noteworthy, Chief used profits from his business to the finance and build a new pre-school/daycare and grade school. He also helped to finance and construct a new Health Center and Social Services building and a 1st class Youth Centre.

The Osoyoos Indian Band has modeled not only sustainable business development, but also socio-economic development. Their mission and strategy is to improve the community’s social needs. Chief Clarence Louie’s constant message is that Socio-economic development is the foundation for First Nation self-reliance. First Nation 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 therefore 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. The Band owns and operates multiple vineyards, many retail stores and a construction company. In addition, they also own and operate 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. It also helps educate visitors to help them explore the desert lands that are a part of the 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”. First Nation leaders have a responsibility to incorporate First Nation’s language and culture in all socio-economic initiatives. This strategy is a means to improve and protect your First Nation’s heritage in Canada. Chief Louie played a key role in the successful negotiations to return “Spotted Lake,” to the Okanagan Nation. As a result, his people and visitors can now experience take pride in the lake and restore a part of First Nations culture.

A lifelong student of “Native American Studies”, Chief Clarence Louie shares his experiences with audiences through his keynote presentations. He conveys and teaches the best lessons learned throughout his experiences to Native peoples, Government and Corporate agencies across the world. His speaking style is a direct business smarts approach. Chief Clarence Louie believes that Aboriginal people and government must make Economic Development a priority. He conveys that 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 around the world. He is in high demand across Canada as a leader, consultant, educator, advocate and businessman.

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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Kelowna, British Columbia

Chief Clarence Louie Rez Rules

My indictment of Canada's and America's systemic racism against indigenous peoples IN 1984, at the age of twenty-four, Clarence Louie was elected Chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band in the Okanagan Valley. Nineteen elections later, Chief Louie has led his community for nearly four decades. The story of how the Osoyoos Indian Band—“The Miracle in the Desert”—transformed from a Rez that once struggled with poverty into an economically independent people is well-known. Guided by his years growing up on the Rez, Chief Louie believes that economic and business independence are key to self-sufficiency, reconciliation, and justice for First Nations people. In Rez Rules, Chief Louie writes about his youth in Osoyoos, from early mornings working in the vineyards, to playing and coaching sports,and attending a largely white school in Oliver, B.C. He remembers enrolling in the “Native American Studies” program at the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College in 1979 and falling in love with First Nations history. Learning about the historic significance of treaties was life-changing. He recalls his first involvement in activism: participating in a treaty bundle run across the country before embarking on a path of leadership. He and his band have worked hard to achieve economic growth and record levels of employment. Inspired by his ancestors’ working culture, and by the young people on the reserve, Chief Louie continues to work for First Nations’ self-sufficiency and independence. Direct and passionate, Chief Louie brings together wide-ranging subjects: life on the Rez, including Rez language and humor; per capita payments; the role of elected chiefs; the devastating impact of residential schools; the need to look to culture and ceremony for governance and guidance; the use of Indigenous names and logos by professional sports teams; his love for motorcycle honor rides; and what makes a good leader. He takes aim at systemic racism and examines the relationship between First Nations and colonial Canada and the United States, and sounds a call to action for First Nations to “Indian Up!” and “never forget our past.” Offering leadership lessons on and off the Rez, this memoir describes the fascinating life and legacy of a remarkable leader and provides a common sense blueprint for the future of First Nations communities. In it, Chief Louie writes, “Damn, I’m lucky to be an Indian!”

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