March 2010 Archives

How many of you have heard about Chief Clarence Louie from the Osoyoos Indian Band in British Columbia? After reading a few articles about him, I thought to myself, "Wow! He makes the material in my Tribal Leaders Institute sound tame."

Speaking at a large aboriginal conference, Chief Clarence Louie said, "I can't stand people who are late. Indian Time doesn't cut it. My first rule for success is 'Show up on time.' My No. 2 rule for success is follow Rule No. 1." He goes on to say, "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." (MacGregor, 2006, para.s 3-4, 6-10)

However, the comment I appreciated most was this, "Our ancestors worked for a living," he says. "So should you" (MacGregor, 2006, para. 14). This is exactly the point I try to drive home in Tribal Leaders Institute courses.

Who is Clarence Louie?

He is "chief - and CEO - of the Osoyoos Band in British Columbia's South Okanagan. He is 44 years old [now 50], 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 it into an inspiration." (MacGregor, 2006, para. 17)

According to MacGregor (2006), "Chief Louie is tough. He is ... proud of the fact that his band fires its own people as well as hires them." He understands that there will always be those who disagree with him, but that does not prevent him from making courageous and honest decisions. As tough as he is, he says he is nothing compared to his mother. Especially, when it comes to how to deal with what she calls today's lazy aboriginal male youth. "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" (para.s 21-22).

When competent leaders in Indian country hold their tribal members accountable, one thing is for certain; their own people will attack them. Chief Louie's situation is no different. He is accused of abandoning their traditions in favor of money. Some people say he is "... sacrificing traditional First Nations culture and values at the altar of capitalism ..." (Findlay, 2009, para. 3). Chief Louie's response to this accusation is, "You're going to lose your language and culture faster in poverty than you will in economic development" (MacGregor, 2006, para. 27). To further defend his actions, he asserts his people come first. "I won't go to a meeting these days unless it has to do with creating jobs and making money," he said. "I spend my time on economic development and I don't care what you say; everything costs money. Even our traditional ceremonies cost money" (Findlay, 2009, para. 2). He goes on to chide fellow aboriginals "who claim to be following the 'red road' (adhering to traditional values and spirituality) while collecting a social assistance cheque" (Findlay, 2009, para. 3). Ironically, as a result of his focus on economic development, his band was able to build the beautiful Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre that promotes First Nations aboriginal culture.

Chief Louie does not discriminate. Nobody - First Nations people or the federal department of Indian affairs, which he says is "an inept bureaucracy that has perpetuated a First Nations welfare state" - is immune to his criticism (Findlay, 2009, para. 3). The bottom line is that he wants aboriginals 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" (MacGregor, 2006, para. 6).

I often point out in my Tribal Institute courses that most Indians love courageous and honest leaders and will follow them anywhere. This seems to be the case with Chief Louie. The audiences love his speeches. They are not turned off by his tough talk at all. And judging from the success his band has experienced over the last 20 years, I would say they have definitely followed his leadership. According to Findlay (2009):

"The Osoyoos Indian Band Development Corp. currently owns nine businesses, with annual revenues topping $13 million, including the award-winning Nk'Mip Cellars, the first First Nations-owned winery in the world. Every Christmas, 12 per cent of profits are distributed to band members. In 2005, more than 1,000 First Nations and non-First Nations were employed by OIB businesses and joint ventures. That same year, OIB Holdings generated nearly $2 million in lease payments from non-First Nations companies such as Calgary-based Bellstar Hotels & Resorts, which is putting the finishing touches on a four-star property - Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort and Spa - on the shores of Lake Osoyoos. Not too shabby for a band that has fewer members than your average urban high school has students" (para. 5-6).

Finally, Chief Louie, "prides himself on being 'a stay-home chief who looks after the potholes in his own backyard' and wastes no time 'running around" the country (MacGregor, 2006, para. 30). Perhaps the best phrase Chief Louie has uttered is this one, "Get over it." Louie says, to the twenty per cent who don't like what he says or his leadership. "Get some counseling" (MacGregor, 2006, para. 29)


Findlay, A. (2009, December 11). Ruffling feathers: The tough-talking, no-bullshit genius of Chief Clarence Louie. ibrii. Retrieved from

MacGregor, R. (2006, September 21). Indian Time doesn't cut it' for innovative chief with on-the-edge humor. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from


What a weekend!  First, I attended a meeting held by a "Commission to Study Racial and Ethnic Bias in the Courts" in the State of North Dakota (a commission to which I was recently appointed).  The composition of the commission consists of several state judges, a tribal judge, people who work with or within the state courts system, and several other minorities like myself.

The North Dakota Supreme Court created this commission to study ethnic and racial bias in the North Dakota State Court system.  In the next two years, we will be traveling to different locations where significant populations of minorities reside.  Naturally, this includes the state's four reservations, the cities of Grand Forks, Fargo, and probably Bismarck and Minot as well.  We will hold public meetings to obtain testimonies from minorities who felt they were treated unfairly by the court system due to their status as a minority.  We will also create surveys that we hope people who come in contact with the court system will fill out.  After the study is completed, we will write a report that contains recommendations to improve the courts' handling of minorities.

This is an excellent opportunity for all you minorities out there, especially you Native Americans, who feel you have been slighted by the state courts, to stand up and speak up.  If you are not a public speaker, there will be people at these meetings to help you either write your testimony down or assist you in some other way so your voice will be heard.

Keep in mind our two traditional values of courage and honesty if you choose to provide testimony.  Have the courage to speak up, no matter how scared you may be.  Your courage may be the key to identifying an extremely harmful racial practice within the court system.  And do not lie when you give testimony.  If you do, your lie will be discovered and will end up hurting all minorities.

After the meeting, I drove to Fargo and attended the Democratic state convention.  It was a new experience for me.  It reminded me a little of our powwows.  I was extremely impressed by the passion and dedication exhibited by delegates and candidates to the Democratic Party's causes.  There were plenty of good speakers.  The keynote speaker was Paul Begala who now serves as a political contributor for CNN.  He was a former advisor to President Bill Clinton.  And there were lots of people I knew.  My old friend and mentor Dr. Berg was there as well as Phyllis Howard and several other Indians I knew.

I attended the candidates' breakfast on Sunday; listened to Dorgan, Conrad, and Pomeroy talk (again).  I thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie displayed by all the people at the convention.  I now look forward to my campaign to become the next person who will represent District #23 in North Dakota's House of Representatives.


Many years ago, I listened to a speech a congressman made right before he retired. He talked about how all the battles he had fought and won over his years in office would have to be fought over and over again by the younger generation. What he was talking about was that people who are crooks (who lie, who steal) never take a break, and he was exhorting the younger generation to carry on the good fight.

Unfortunately, "good values" are not the only values that are passed on to the next generation.  I find it amazing that the same unethical behaviors and tactics I have observed used years and years ago, when I first started working for the tribe, are still in use today. Only the people have changed... or in some cases, I will say the family members have changed.

In many instances, unethical behavior appears to be passed down from parent to child.  There is a core group of tribal members who commit unethical workplace behavior over and over again.  Typically, they are tribal workers who are not at the very top of the chain-of-command in an organization.  Most of the time, they are your average tribal workers who are nice to people outside their jobs, and who are usually involved in community and/or social events.  But, do not underestimate their influence.  While they quietly go about committing unethical work behavior, they often befriend a lot of people in doing so.  They do this for a reason.  They are cunning enough to know they might get into trouble at some time in the future, and they will need all the help they can get.  This is why they pick the ones they befriend very carefully.  They want people who will ignore their unethical behavior and support them regardless.

The membership of this unholy group is usually very fluid.  Its members come and go depending upon whatever the issue is.  Some of the characteristics they share are: cowardice, greed, and dishonesty, and they are inclined to defend nepotism and favoritism.

As I said, most of the time, they go quietly about their unethical behavior, but watch out if someone tries to reform them, or if they are recruited by another member of their group to help protect one of their kind who is in trouble.  Then, they can turn as mean as snakes.  They are not afraid to intimidate people by banding together and ganging up on whoever opposes them; and it doesn't matter who.  Other workers, supervisors, CEOs, and tribal council persons, alike, are all subject to their unholy wrath.

Probably, the most common example of the cowardly, dishonest, bullying type of behavior that this group is capable of is when one of their own who is in an influential position is fired or has to resign from his or her job.  Here is what usually happens:

1.  Once the person is fired or resigns, this group immediately, but quietly (some might say sneakily), begins to work to get it reversed.  Why?  Is it because they are true friends with the individual?  Is it because of loyalty?  Absolutely not!  It is because the individual was in a position to do them favors with the program or the position's resources.  They are very skillful in the art of schmoozing anyone who has the influence to reverse the decision.

2.  When Step 1 doesn't work, they ignore the fact that the person deserved to be fired.  Instead, they talk about all the "good" this person has done on the job and how no one else "will be able to" do the job as good as him or her.  By now, they are becoming vocal and a little threatening.

3.  When Step 1 and 2 doesn't work, they do the next best thing - they blame someone else. Although this claim is so obviously a ploy, they do it with a straight face and a lot of passion. After all, they have a lot to lose.

4.  When Steps 1, 2, and 3 do not work, the gloves come off.  They lie.  They threaten.  They organize groups of tribal members to protest, and they schmooze everyone and anyone who they think will help them.

Some of their unethical ways were learned on the job, but most were passed down to them from someone older than them, usually, from someone they admired and respected.  Because of that, some of them really do not fathom that what they are doing is just plain wrong.  They are incapable of self-honesty.  This is why this group of unethical tribal workers is as strong today as they were over 20 years ago when I first started working for the tribe.  And this group will continue to exist.  They will continue to hold the tribe back from making progress in all areas, unless you have the courage and honesty to stand up to them.

I know it is easier said than done.  But these people have feelings, too.  Many of them are not exactly courageous types and will back down when someone stands up to them.  And although it may not seem like it, most of them do know the difference between right and wrong and will listen to a strong honest voice.  I hope this voice will be you.

Response to Article: "An Admirable Display of Courage"

Written by: Erich Longie, Spirit Lake Consulting

Response submitted by: Dr. Leigh D. Jeanotte, Director, American Indian Student Services at the University of North Dakota


March 16, 2010


It was with great interest that I read "An Admirable Display of Courage" by Dr. Erich Longie.  I wondered what this long-time very vocal opponent of the Fighting Sioux nickname at the University of North Dakota (UND) would have to say about the rather historic meeting he attended of the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education (NDSBHE) held on the UND campus.  I use the word "historic" to describe this meeting because according to news reports, for the first time in this decades-long controversy, leadership within the NDSBHE and at an administrative level at UND voiced loud and clear their desire and the need for the nickname to go - the sooner the better. 


Dr. Longie addressed this historic turn of events within the framework of organizational theory and behavior, and did so in way that gave credit - even praise - to the leaders who dared to publicly speak out in favor of immediately retiring the outdated tradition of Fighting Sioux athletics at UND.  Longie credited UND President Robert Kelley, Chancellor William Goetz, Board member Mike Haugen, and Athletic Director Brian Faison with moral courage and credited them for inspiring local Grand Forks Herald reporter Tu-Uyen Tran to make the following honest admission via the headline of his Herald story: "Tide Seems to Turn Against Nickname," which was, by all accounts, a change of perspective from this nickname supporting newspaper reporter.


In reading Dr. Longie's essay and other writings, I must commend him on his enthusiasm and optimistic approach regarding this rather tiring story and process (retirement of the UND nickname).  Through his newsletter, he brings new energy to those who feel exhausted with the length of time this controversy has simmered, and he does so in a fully informed, research backed, academically sound manner.  Dr. Longie's perspective is refreshing and honest, and I fully endorse his worthy contributions to the world of publishing.  I can only imagine how powerful this American Indian (Spirit Lake Nation) writer's messages could be within our society if the American public took notice of his articles and paused long enough to learn!

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