Published On: Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Economic Development Brings Opportunity to First Nations

Economic Development Brings Opportunity to First Nations
Celebrated Osoyoos Indian Band leader shares inspirational message with Ucluelet First Nation.

UCLUELET – Money equals opportunity.

That’s how Chief Clarence Louie of Osoyoos Indian Band sees it. One of Canada’s most successful Chiefs, Louie has earned accolades for his approach to economic development that has brought prosperity to the South Okanagan First Nation. He shared that inspirational message with Ucluelet First Nation members on September 2.

Economic development, he believes, is an irreplaceable part of any forward progress for any First Nation.

“Economic development is your path to freedom. We can’t depend on the Department of Indian Affairs,” he states. “They’ve never properly funded one program on an Indian Reserve, and never will.”

“We need to create our own jobs, with our own money. It’s not all about money, but words without money have no legs.”

Osoyoos First Nation has earned a reputation as one of the country’s most progressive and successful First Nations, owning and operating numerous profitable businesses that employ workers from 30 different nationalities.

They include Senkulmen Business Park, Spirit Ridge NK’Mip Resort, NK’Mip (Inkameep) Cellars wine, NK’MIP RV Park, NK’MIp Desert Cultural Centre, NK’Mip Canyon Desert Golf Course and Canyon Desert Resort.

Osoyoos Indian Band leases 227 acres of land to Area 27 Motorsports Park in Oliver. Designed by famous Canadian Formula One driver Jacques Villeneuve, is described as, “five kilometres of adrenaline and discipline. Built on a tradition of excellence, Area 27 is created as the ultimate driving playground.”

“We get the spin-off, too,” notes Chief Louie. “The people that come golf at our golf course, stay at our resort, eat at our restaurant, and buy our gas. And they buy a lot of gas.”

Chief Louie stated that while money is not everything, it is necessary.

“Everything - education, health care, cultural programs – costs money,” he observes. “I don’t believe in a free lunch. The traditional food we’ve eaten here tonight is some of the best anywhere. But the food we have eaten wasn’t free. Fishing boats aren’t free, hunting rifles aren’t free. Guns aren’t free. We have to make our own money, even to do traditional ceremonies.”

“If we want to educate our people, it costs money. Not Indians Affairs money – that’s not enough.”

Chief Louie was first elected in 1984, and has won 16 elections, including the last one in February. Although his list of accomplishments and awards is lengthy – including recently being named to the Order of Canada – he is quick to share credit for the success at Osoyoos Indian Band with a strong team inside and outside the Nation.

“There’s not an ‘I’ in TEAM, which stands for Together Everyone Achieves More,” he said.

Chief Louie notes the “original Treaty relationship between tribes and the English and the French was a business relationship. The first business people in Canada were tribal people,” he says.

“We had trade routes between each others’ tribes long before the others came. The original Treaty relationship between tribes and the English and the French was a business relationship. That’s what it needs to get back to.

“It’s not just about business,” he adds. “It’s about building life-long relationships.

“In business, you can’t lie and stay in business,” he notes. “In politics, maybe you can, but not in business. You’ll be found out very quickly.”

Emblazoned on the outside wall of an Osoyoos Indian Band office are the words: ‘Indians Have Always Worked’.

“I believe we came from a working culture,” he continued. “None of them sat on their butts and put their hands out,” he states. “No First Nation, before the Europeans came, put their hands out and expected something.

“I don’t like seeing my people in welfare lines,” he says. “Welfare is not Indian. . .We fed ourselves, clothed ourselves, sheltered ourselves. Today we do that through economic development and business, and putting money into buying land.”

Chief Louie said even if it means having to buy some land back, so be it.

“It’s only money, and I want opportunity for my people,” he adds. “I’ve never seen a non-native come into our office and say ‘I just watched (the movie) Dances with Wolves and my conscience is bothering me, so here’s the title to this land’.”

Chief Louie remains positive and expectant.

“I have a ‘future is now’ mentality. Every time I get elected, I’m going to move the yard sticks,” he says.