In December 1984, Clarence Louie was first elected as Chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band, part of the Okanagan Nation in south central British Columbia. Since then, Chief Louie has consistently emphasized economic development as a means to improve his people’s standard of living.
In 1998, he was appointed chief executive officer of the Osoyoos Indian Band Development Corporation, which was formed to manage and provide strategic direction to the existing businesses and seek out new economic opportunities.
Under Chief Louie’s direction, the Band has become a multifaceted corporation that owns and manages eleven businesses and employs one thousand people.
That includes vineyards, retail stores, a construction company, a Readi-Mix company, a championship golf course, eco-tourism businesses, a winery and activities in forestry.
The Band has also negotiated settlement of three specific land claims, negotiated over 1,000 acres of lease developments, and acquired hundreds of acres of land to add to the reserve.
The Osoyoos Indian Band has modeled not only sustainable business development, but also socio-economic development. Benefits to the community have included developing a new pre- school/daycare, a grade school/gymnasium, a health centre/social services building, a youth centre and a cultural centre.
Chief Louie is a strong proponent of First Nations communities becoming business-oriented to create their own jobs and revenue sources, not just administering government programs. He also believes that First Nation leaders have a responsibility to incorporate First Nation’s language and culture in all socioeconomic initiatives, as the means to improve and protect their heritage.
Chief Louie’s efforts have been widely recognized. He has been named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, and is a member of the Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame. He has also received the Order of British Columbia and the Order of Canada.