By Frank Larue
I thought you had to be really old or retired and rich to be in the Hall of Fame,” Clarence Louie told the Osoyoos Times, responding to the news that he had been inducted in the Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame along with Ruth Williams. The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business selects the award recipients. Clarence received the award for his “accomplishments in achieving sustainable economic development in Aboriginal communities.”
The award is long overdue. Clarence Louie is without question a First Nations business visionary who has guided his band to business areas no Native leader ever considered before. The Osoyoos Band is not only fiscally self sufficient, they now own several businesses that provide a revenue of $15 million annually, including the Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort & Spa, Nk’mip Golf Course, Nk’mip Desert Cultural Centre, Nk’mip RV Park, and the only First Nations owned winery in Canada or the US: the Nk’mip Cellars.
The Osoyoos Band is without question the best-managed Native band in the country thanks to Clarence Louie. In his own words, “The Band does not owe its membership dependency; it owes them opportunity.” At a conference held in Osoyoos in October last year, Clarence explained the band’s philosophy and the theme of the conference. “Our goal is to provide a real-world look at business development within Native communities that is balanced with sound business principles.”
First Nations leaders have been plagued by financial problems for years. The main problem is finding ways to create employment for people living on the reserves. The solution does not rest in the hands of government or companies wanting to exploit Native resources. The destiny of First Nations Bands lies in the hands of their leaders. Waiting for Land Claims to deliver the golden egg does not solve the immediate problems on reserve. “Business is what makes the world go round,” says Clarence. “Business is what pays for everything. Business taxes pay for the hospitals and the police and all the social services and the education.”