Since December 1984, when he was first elected chief of the Osoyoos Indian Band (part of the Okanagan Nation in south central British Columbia), Clarence Joseph Louie has consistently emphasized economic development as a means to improve his people's standard of living. Under his direction, the band has become a multi-faceted corporation that owns and manages nine businesses and employs hundreds of people. Other achievements under Chief Louie's tenure include the negotiated settlement of three land claims, the negotiation of over 1,000 acres of lease developments, the acquisition of hundreds of acres of land to add to the reserve, the purchase of a viable off-reserve business, the financing of a major golf course development, the initiation of the Osoyoos Indian taxation by-law, the financing and building of a school and other installations, and the opening of the first Aboriginal winery, a joint venture with Vincor International.
While he emphasizes economic development as the means to achieving self-sufficiency, Chief Louie also upholds the importance of maintaining the Okanagan language and culture in all aspects of the band's activities, including its businesses. The establishment of the Nk'Mip Desert & Cultural Center is one among many testaments to this commitment.
Chief Louie's efforts have been recognized widely in Canada and the United States. In 1999, he received the Aboriginal Business Leader Award from All Nations Trust and Development Corporation. In 2000, the Advancement of Native Development officers (CANDO) named him "Economic Developer of the Year" and Canada's governor general chose him to join the 2000 leadership tour. In 2001, Chief Louie was appointed to the Aboriginal Business Canada Board, becoming chair in 2007. In 2002, Aboriginal Tourism BC awarded him the "Inspirational Leadership Award,"and in 2003, Maclean's listed him as one of the "Top 50 Canadians to Watch." This recognition was followed by further recognition by the US Department of State, the Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, the Order of British Columbia, Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year program, and the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business' Hall of Fame. In 2016 he was made a Member of the Order of Canada.