Clarence Louie says things anyone other than a respected indigenous leader couldn’t get away with.
His advice to young men on his home reserve? “Get a damn job, be a man. It should be embarrassing for you to raise your kids on welfare.”
Looking to succeed in the workplace? “Be punctual. Be on time. Indian time doesn’t cut it.”
Deciding what to read? “Too many times I go into Indian people’s houses, even on my own rez, I see tabloids. Tabloids? That’s what you read? You’re never going to be a leader reading tabloids.”
Louie’s straight talk captivated a Flin Flon audience Wednesday afternoon as some 340 people, including many aboriginal youth, crammed the RH Channing Auditorium to hear him speak.
A gentle-looking man with greying bangs and an animal-skin vest, he deluged the crowd with morsels of advice that have transformed Osoyoos Indian Band, where he is chief, into a beacon of hope for economically ravaged First Nations.
While many other chiefs are preoccupied with old treaty claims and calls for additional government support, Louie’s prime focus is clear-cut: put people to work.
“I firmly believe every person needs to be in a good-paying job,” he told the auditorium audience. “I don’t like seeing native people unemployed. I don’t like seeing my people on welfare. I don’t agree with welfare. Our people never had welfare before, on the reserves. One old chief once told me, ‘The worst thing Indian Affairs ever brought to our communities was welfare.’ Our oldtimers never survived on welfare before. Every First Nation society that I’ve studied, we all come from a working culture. Our people worked for a living. They got up early and went to work, whether it was on traplines or whether it was in the fur trade.
“I’m not looking for handouts. I’m looking for self-sufficiency for my people.”...