Osoyoos Indian Band Raises the Bar in Aboriginal Tourism

Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort & Spa
Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort & Spa

The beautiful southern Okanagan Valley in British Columbia has long been famous for its golf courses, ski resorts, orchards and vineyards — the hot, dry summers and mild winters make for a perfect year-round destination. Perched in the hills above the town of Osoyoos, the Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort & Spa only adds to the area's allure. As one of the original First Nations luxury resorts in Canada, it has garnered international attention. The sprawling resort includes a hotel, golf course, RV park, full-service spa, cultural centre, conference centre, vineyard and award-winning winery.

North America's first Aboriginal owned and operated winery, Nk'Mip Cellars (pronounced In-ka-MEEP) has received more than 50 international wine awards since opening its doors in 2002. The winery harvests grapes from some of the oldest vines in the region, just one of the reasons the wines keep winning awards.

Pride in Culture, History

The fertile Okanagan Valley is steeped in history and culture. Through hands-on displays, tours, self-guided trails and interpretive sites, the Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre celebrates the culture and history of the local Okanagan-area First Nations who have lived on this land for centuries.

One of Canada's three most endangered eco-systems, the area is home to hundreds of rare plant and animal species and the Cultural Centre celebrates that rich heritage and the connection to the land enjoyed by the Okanagan First Nations.

Full Steam Ahead

Business Conference Centre
Business Conference Centre

The state-of-the-art Business Conference Centre is the latest addition to the resort. “The site is unique. It's rare to have a cultural centre or a conference centre on-reserve that has all the amenities,” said Osoyoos Indian Band Chief Clarence Louie.

The Conference Centre's first event in 2009 was a big one — a First Nations economic development forum called Building a Better Canada through First Nations Economies. Chief Louie brought together more than 300 chiefs and corporate leaders from Canada and Washington State to discuss ways to stimulate the First Nations economy, using Nk'Mip as an example.

None of it has been easy. Chief Louie's vision of self reliance for his people has taken drive, perseverance and plain old hard work. Now with more jobs on-reserve than members, the Osoyoos Indian Band is employing people from surrounding areas to fill the demand. Through strong leadership and strategic partnerships, the 450-member Osoyoos Indian Band has created a tourism business generating annual revenues in excess of $40 million and employing 1,200 people.

Nk'Mip Cellars wine shop
Nk'Mip Cellars wine shop

The Band operates ten businesses in total, including the resort. It also administers its own health, social, education, and municipal services. Is it any wonder the Band has won numerous environmental, architectural, and business awards for innovation. And there's no sign of slowing down any time soon. When asked what the future holds for the Band, Chief Louie doesn't hold back. “We're not going to stop improving employment opportunities or creating our own economic possibilities.”

So, if you're looking for a place to raise your glass — there are plenty of reasons to celebrate at the Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort & Spa in Osoyoos.

For more information, visit their Web site  : www.spiritridge.ca