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SIEF has a proud and rich corporate history of building First Nation businesses in Saskatchewan.

  • SIEF has always been committed to developing a strong economic base among First Nations in Saskatchewan and continues to assist in the creation of jobs and to foster economic growth for First Nations people.
  • For more than 35 years, SIEF has been growing the First Nation entrepreneurial and business spirit by being leaders in providing innovative financial products and services.

The full story of SIEF’s history was captured in a book produced in 2022 as SIEF marked its 35th anniversary. Copies can be requested from SIEF’s office.

Below is a brief outline of its history.

SIEF is a first in Canada

In the early 1980s, Saskatchewan’s 74 First Nations identified the need to establish a lending corporation.

At the time, the First Nations, the federal and provincial governments and the business community realized access to capital is a key component needed to generate economic development and jobs in the First Nation community. Traditional business financing was not readily available for many First Nations people and was not available to many First Nations.

SIEF was established in 1986 to fill this business financing need and to serve a niche market of First Nation entrepreneurs. SIEF was the first Aboriginal Financial Institution (AFI) of the 54 AFIs currently located across Canada. AFIs are autonomous, Indigenous-controlled, community-based financial organizations.

SIEF is owned by the 74 First Nations of Saskatchewan and affiliated with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, Inc. (FSIN). The 74 First Nations make up the membership of SIEF.

SIEF has made thousands of First Nations businesses and jobs possible

SIEF is recognized as one of Canada’s first and largest Aboriginal Financial Institutions (AFI), which are autonomous, Indigenous-controlled, community-based financial organizations.

In its first 25 years, SIEF lent out more than $62 million to First Nation entrepreneurs creating more than 3,200 businesses and generating approximately 7,000 jobs.

SIEF’s grown over more than 35 years

Indigenous business activity grew substantially during SIEF’s first ten years. During its early years, SIEF began transforming loan culture, making it clear its lending capital belonged to First Nations and must be repaid, resulting in SIEF having a very low loan-loss rate.

Thousands of First Nation entrepreneurs created successful businesses, repaying their loans with interest. Some were ready to borrow again. Some went back to SIEF, while others were going to banks for financing.

During the 1990s, it was recognized that a First Nations-controlled bank was necessary. This would allow SIEF to leverage returns from a subsidiary bank back into more developmental lending. SIEF pursued a banking license to become a chartered bank. The federal regulatory bodies asked SIEF to find a partner. The only bank interested in partnering with SIEF was the Toronto Dominion Bank.

Together, they founded the First Nations Bank in 1996. SIEF negotiated its structure, ensuring it belonged to First Nations.

That same year, the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association (NACCA) was formed to advocate for the shared interests of Aboriginal Capital Corporations that were forming across Canada. SIEF was a leading voice in this new national body that today is a network of over 50 Aboriginal Financial Institutions (AFIs) dedicated to stimulating economic growth for all Indigenous people in Canada.

In the early 2000s, SIEF took on agricultural lending as it amalgamated with the Saskatchewan Indian Loan Company (SILCO), which was a subsidiary of the Saskatchewan Indian Agricultural Program (SIAP), which were owned by the FSIN. The companies consolidated their loan portfolios and centralized their operations in Saskatoon.

This amalgamation as well as the founding of the First Nations Bank created an opportunity for SIEF to update its governance. A board of business professionals was established as were committees dedicated to governance, human resources, audit and finance, investments and loans. This board set up a new corporate governance structure, human resources plan and a strategic plan.

A significant amount of work was done to restore SIEF to profitability by the mid-2000s, having had to absorb loan losses during the amalgamation. That surplus helped SIEF to issue even more developmental loans, but also to finance the construction of a new head office at Muskeg Lake First Nation’s urban reserve in Saskatoon known as Asimakaniseekan Askiy Reserve.

In 2006, SIEF opened its new head office and business complex. It also adopted a logo that was in use until 2023.

Honouring the past, looking to the future

SIEF is today known as the Saskatchewan Indigenous Enterprise Foundation Inc. having adopted a new name and logo in 2023.

The logo incorporates core arrow shapes derived from the Star Blanket pattern.

The arrow shapes are linked showing unity and collaboration.  The arrow shapes are pointing in opposite directions to indicate choice as well as the lower arrow recognizing and acknowledging the past while the upper arrow is forging forward and looking to the future.

The logo’s colours are based on the four directions customary palette (with a modernized hue) and incorporates the colours of the medicine wheel.

The overall concept of the new brand is a modern look with distinctive traditional elements from the Indigenous cultures of Saskatchewan.  All these element’s work to encapsulate an Indigenous viewpoint of honouring the past while looking towards the future.