A SPEECH FROM CHIEF CLARENCE LOUIE, OSOYOOS FIRST NATIONS BAND.
Chief Clarence Louie, Osoyoos BC speaking in Northern Alberta :
Speaking to a large aboriginal conference and some of the attendees, including a few who hold high office, have straggled in.
'I can't stand people who are late, he says into the microphone. Indian Time doesn't cut it. '
Some giggle, but no one is quite sure how far he is going to go. Just sit back and listen:
'My first rule for success is Show up on time.'
'My No. 2 rule for success is follow Rule No. 1.'
'If your life sucks, it's because you suck.'
'Quit your sniffling.'
'Join the real world. Go to school, or get a job.'
'Get off of welfare. Get off your butt.'
He pauses, seeming to gauge whether he dare, then does.
'People often say to me, How you doin'? Geez I'm working with Indians what do you think?'
Now they are openly laughing ..... applauding. Clarence Louie is everything that was advertised and more.
'Our ancestors worked for a living, he says. So should you.'
He is, fortunately, aboriginal himself. If someone else stood up and
said these things - the white columnist standing there with his mouth
open, for example - you'd be seen as a racist. Instead, Chief Clarence
Louie is seen, increasingly, as one of the most interesting and
innovative native leaders in the country even though he avoids national
He has come here to Fort McMurray because the
aboriginal community needs, desperately, to start talking about economic
development and what all this multibillion-dollar oil madness might
mean, for good and for bad.
Clarence Louie is chief and CEO of
the Osoyoos Band in British Columbia's South Okanagan. He is 44 years
old, though he looks like he would have been an infant when he began his
remarkable 20-year-run as chief.. He took a band that had been declared
bankrupt and taken over by Indian Affairs and he has turned in into an
In 2000, the band set a goal of becoming self-sufficient in five years. They're there.
The Osoyoos, 432 strong, own, among other things, a vineyard, a winery,
a golf course and a tourist resort, and they are partners in the Baldy
Mountain ski development. They have more businesses per capita than any
other first nation in Canada.
There are not only enough jobs
for everyone, there are so many jobs being created that there are now
members of 13 other tribal communities working for the Osoyoos. The
little band contributes $40-million a year to the area economy.
Chief Louie is tough. He is as proud of the fact that his band fires
its own people as well as hires them. He has his mottos posted
throughout the Rez. He believes there is no such thing as consensus,
that there will always be those who disagree. And, he says, he is
milquetoast compared to his own mother when it comes to how today's lazy
aboriginal youth, almost exclusively male, should be dealt with.
Rent a plane, she told him, and fly them all to Iraq. Dump'em off and all the ones who make it back are keepers. Right on, Mom.
The message he has brought here to the Chipewyan, Dene and Cree who
live around the oil sands is equally direct: 'Get involved, create jobs
and meaningful jobs, not just window dressing for the oil companies.'
'The biggest employer,' he says, 'shouldn't be the band office.'
He also says the time has come to get over it. 'No more whining about
100-year-old failed experiments.' 'No foolishly looking to the Queen to
Louie says aboriginals here and along the
Mackenzie Valley should not look at any sharing in development as
rocking-chair money but as investment opportunity to create sustainable
businesses. He wants them to move beyond entry-level jobs to real jobs
they earn all the way to the boardrooms. He wants to see business
manners develop: showing up on time, working extra hours. The business
lunch, he says, should be drive through, and then right back at it.
'You're going to lose your language and culture faster in poverty than
you will in economic development', he says to those who say he is
Tough talk, at times shocking talk given
the audience, but on this day in this community, they took it and,
judging by the response, they loved it.
Eighty per cent like
what I have to say, Louie says, twenty per cent don't. I always say to
the 20 per cent, 'Get over it.' 'Chances are you're never going to see
me again and I'm never going to see you again' 'Get some counseling.'
The first step, he says, is all about leadership. He prides himself on
being a stay-home chief who looks after the potholes in his own backyard
and wastes no time running around fighting 100-year-old battles.
'The biggest challenge will be how you treat your own people.'
'Blaming government? That time is over.'
From a speech from Chief Clarence Louie,
Osoyoos Band in British Columbia Canada.
Posted and Photo by Sir Richard.