Hay River heard a decidedly pro-business message last week from a well-known Aboriginal leader from British Columbia.
Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Indian Band – which he has led for over 30 years to a strong economy that is noticed across Canada – made the case for making money through economic development.
“My focus is always business, and engaging with businesspeople,” he said. “I love hanging around businesspeople. I love making money for the Osoyoos Indian Band.”
The chief was the keynote speaker at the K’atlodeeche First Nation Mining Symposium, held Nov. 14 & 15.
Louie said the equation that is stamped in his mind is money equals opportunity. “Because everything costs money,” he said, noting that goes for things like health, education and recreation. “Even culture costs money. Even spirituality costs money.”
Louie noted he reminds people, especially youth and Native people, that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
“Even if you happen to get a free lunch, somebody behind the scenes paid for that lunch,” he said. “Even if it is traditional foods, there’s still a cost. There’s still money involved. Guns aren’t free. Bullets aren’t free. Fishing boats aren’t free. Gas ain’t free.”
Louie said his focus as chief has always been creating jobs and making money.
“My campaign speech is always one sentence: ‘I’ll create more jobs and make more money for the Osoyoos Indian Band than anybody else,'” he said. “And that’s why we have more band-owned businesses on a per capita basis than any other First Nation in this country.”
Louie said he is not against mining and not against logging, if they are done with regard to the environment.
“Because I can’t be a hypocrite,” he said, noting he lives in a house made with Grade A lumber and rides a motorcycle made of metal.
Native people shouldn’t be against mining because everyone uses metal, he added. “We all love our guns as Native people. There’s a lot of metal in those guns.”
A mine is already operating on Osoyoos Indian Band territory, and Louie noted the First Nation is in discussions with another mining company.
The chief noted that mining companies know that the Osoyoos Indian Band has to be involved in jobs, royalties and every subcontract.
“I encourage every First Nation to be pro-business, but get some advisors,” Louie said. “You’re not an island. Go to school on other First Nations.”
The chief encouraged KFN to look at how other First Nations deal with businesses, including through impact benefit agreements.
And he said First Nations need competent lawyers and consultants, who should be judged by results.
“All lawyers are not created equal,” he said. “There’s good ones and there’s bad ones. Same with consultants.”
Louie recited some numbers that show how a pro-business stance has worked for the Osoyoos Indian Band.
While it has about 540 members, not all living on a 32,000-acre reserve, it has created about 1,000 jobs through various business ventures.
“We’re pumping millions of dollars into the local economy,” he said. “First Nations are getting back on their economic horse.”
And people come from all over Canada to work on the reserve, Louie said, noting there are representatives of 35 different First Nations employed there.