For Chief Clarence Louie, the honour of being named to the Order of Canada belongs to the entire Osoyoos Indian Band, not just to him.
The Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, named Louie to the Order of Canada on Dec. 30 “for his innovative contributions to increasing economic opportunities for Indigenous communities.”
“That is pretty good recognition for the Osoyoos Indian Band,” said Louie. “The recognition comes from all the projects we have done. I am not an individual entrepreneur.”
Louie, who was first elected OIB chief in 1984 said the whole band shares in deciding the path and the projects undertaken. Council has to give its support, but then a majority of the band also has to approve.
“On a reserve it’s not a one-man show. It never has been, under chief and council where there are elections and a democracy,” said Louie. “It’s way different than an individual entrepreneur.”
Louie said the OIB has been lucky in getting so many projects, which includes Spirit Ridge and the Nk’mip Resort, the Senkulmen Business Park and many others up, and running.
Other bands have not been able to bring so many projects to fruition, according to Louie, who adds the band members have always had a strong work ethic.
“Well before my time, our people worked for a living,” said Louie, explaining that band members used to have to travel for work, like working in agriculture and following the fruit all the way down to California or Arizona.
“That’s how badly our people wanted to work,” said Louie. “Now our people don’t have to travel that way, there are enough jobs on the reserve.”
Louie, also a member of the Order of B.C., has been the recipient of many awards. These awards, he said, both honour the band and help further its reputation.
Related: Honours add up for Osoyoos chief
“Whether it’s the Order of Canada or a National Achievement award … it gives very good recognition to the Osoyoos Indian Band,” said Louie. “The OIB is known as playing a major role in the economy of the Oliver-Osoyoos area. These type of things just give businesspeople a level of comfort.
“That is what businesspeople want to go to, they want to go to where there is common sense and business sense.”
Besides marking Canada’s 150th anniversary, Johnston said 2017 is also the 50th anniversary of the Order, which was founded during Canada’s centennial year by Queen Elizabeth II.
“I am delighted to recognize these new recipients of the Order of Canada in this milestone year,” said Johnston. “So let’s be inspired by the examples set by these remarkable Canadians and use this occasion to build a smarter and more caring country in which every individual can succeed to the greatest extent possible.”
Louie was named to the order along with 100 other Canadians, including a number of British Columbians like Libby Davies, “for her long-standing commitment to helping marginalized people and for her ardent defence of social justice” and Ellen White of Nanaimo, “for her work as an Elder and community leader, and for her efforts to preserve the Hul’qumi’num language.”
Louie said the OIB is looking forward in 2017 to the opening of the Area 27 Motorsport Club in June.
“That is going to be a huge thing, not just for the South Okanagan but for the entire region,” said Louie, noting that the cars coming there are owned by high-level business people, both working and retired.
They’re now going to get a better look at the region and its possibilities, Louie said, and spread that through their business networks.
“That is going to be a major thing for this region,” said Louie, adding that the OIB is still working to find partners for hundreds of acres of lease opportunities from Oliver through Osoyoos.
“It is going to bring more jobs and more opportunities for our youth,” he said. “We are still looking to attract business developers and business partners for our land and projects.”
The Order of Canada, one of the county’s highest civilian honours, recognizes outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation.
Throughout the year, the Order’s 50th anniversary will be celebrated through a host of special initiatives and partnerships. To join the celebration, visit OC50.gg.ca for ideas on how to engage and be inspired.
Related: Canada 150