Aroland Vision Quest Presentation CHIEF Clarence Louie Osoyoos
THUNDER BAY – Chief Clarence Louie states, “Our ancestors worked hard, we have to get rid of the welfare mentality, its a trap”. The Chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band was sharing his vision with a youthful audience at the Aroland Vision Quest conference in Thunder Bay. Chief Louie spoke about how growing up he lived with his mother who enforced ‘Rez rules’ on him – It was “Go to school, get a job, or get out!”.
Chief Louis is often called controversial, and outspoken. His vision is simple, to be taken seriously you must be serious, have a plan and work hard. “I have never stood in a welfare line,” stated Chief Louie, “And I never will!”
Clarence speaks from solid experience of working hard, he was elected Chief of Osoyoos First Nation in his twenties, he is now in his fifties, and his greatest moments of pride are hearing from people around his ‘rez’ about how his young people are bragging about their community. Louie shared how in his community the youth from other nearby communities are coming to ‘the rez’ to use the weight room, and other facilities. The First Nation has actually had to put rules in place restricting the number of guests that can come to the facilities.
Clarence says that “We should all be proud of what we have on the Rez. I wish we had a gym when I was a kid. I wish that our Band had taken our youth on trips when I was a kid.
The youth heard an inspired talk from a leader who has put hard work, and business near the top of the agenda. Clarence however shared how the Band has not followed all of the rules. For example Clarence said that the Osoyoos Band puts the rights of the people near the top, and in their employment policies and strategies they have a distinct Indian flavour.
The Band chooses to focus on jobs as a direct contrast to poverty. Clarence shared that “We’re supposed to grow through life, not go through life”. He added that he is an avid reader, and that successful people everywhere are avid readers. His desk is where when he gets home, there will be a stack of Native newspapers from across North America that he will read, and his library is full of books on Native issues.
His passion in Osoyoos is in work, and it is something the Chief shared with his audience. “As a Chief, I have a job focus”. That message does not resonate everywhere the Chief said. He said however that “Walt Disney said a sure path to failure is to try to please everyone”.
The Chief commented about young men, wearing their baseball caps backwards, and their baggy pants down low and calling themselves warriors. “Real warriors have a job, real warriors support their families”.
At the national level, Clarence says, “Don’t talk about poverty, talk about jobs”. He added, “Stronger First Nations equal a stronger Canada. I want my people to have good jobs, good houses and good cars”.
“I want to see multi-millionare First Nations people, and I will argue with anyone who says being Indian means embracing being poor”. The Chief also touched on what he said is a problem within the community. He said “I applaud success among our people”, noting that in many cases people call down those who are successful.
Clarence said, to watch out for the Reservations where the Band Office is the biggest employer. He said that people need to watch for action to follow the “I care” speeches.
“Caring for our children is the first step, and youth activities cost money”.