A recent study by the Fraser Institute found that the Osoyoos Indian Band generates more revenue than it receives in federal government transfers.
In the south Okanagan, The Osoyoos Indian Band is renowned for building a business empire.
It controls about 32,000 acres of land north of Oliver to Osoyoos and has 540 members.
When you enter the newly minted Osoyoos Indian Band office in Oliver, it’s hard to miss the phrase above chief and council chambers that says “Natives Have Always Worked for a Living.”
“People think that economic development or being business people is new to native people. We were the first entrepreneurs here,” said Chief Clarence Louie on Friday.
The progressive first nation continues to focus on self-sustaining economic development.
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Louie said the largest source of revenue comes from land leases.
A provincial jail and private race track were both recently built on band land.
The Osoyoos Indian Band Development Corporation also owns and operates a number of successful businesses– including North America’s first aboriginal winery.
Tom Flanagan, University of Calgary professor emeritus and senior fellow with the Fraser Institute, reviewed audited annual financial statements reported to Ottawa.
“Own source revenue, self-generated, is probably much larger than most people recognize,” he said.
During the 2015/16 fiscal year, the Osoyoos Indian Band reported total revenues of $11.7 million. $7.2 million came from the band’s own sources and $4.5 million from government transfers.
The study also found that the Penticton Indian Band reported $9.2 million from government transfers and $8.4 million from self-generated revenue.
The Okanagan Indian Band near Vernon received $9.3 million from government transfers and $4.2 million from own-source revenue.
The study didn’t include information from the Westbank First Nation in West Kelowna because it has a self-governance agreement and different reporting requirements.
At the Osoyoos Indian Band, Louie said money is funneled back into social service programs.
“We want to create more own source revenue because costs rise. Inflation goes up. Band membership is growing. People are getting older on that side of the scale so we need more health services,” Louie said.
“They’ve become kind of a model case in Canada,” added Flanagan.
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