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New CIBC Reserve Branch A Success

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      FALL 1998      v28 n03 p02  
Lac La Ronge, SK- Since June 10, 1998, Aboriginal people on the La Ronge reserve have been able to deposit and withdraw funds, make investments, and negotiate loans, all without traveling into town.

The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce's (CIBC) newest reserve branch is the fifth of its kind in Canada. CIBC has four other full-service branches on reserves, and decided that the La Ronge location would be make an appropriate addition. The reserve was chosen primarily because of the band's successes in economic development in recent years.

Thus far, it's been nothing but success.

"We liked the aggressive and forthright manner in which this band does business. They have proven themselves to be worthy partners," said La Ronge Mayor Joe Hordyski. "We were not surprised when they were chosen for a new branch."

The CIBC were similarly impressed by the Band's business like record. "They proved to be a force to be reckoned with. They are very serious in their business ventures and we got to know each others businesses extremely well over the past several months," states Doneta Brotchie, CIBC's prairie region senior vice-president. "This type of economic development is very important to us."

Among its numerous services, the reserve branch is able to provide a tax benefit to the 6,000 members of the La Ronge First Nation as well as to other neighboring bands. Both status and treaty Indians can earn tax-exempt interest on deposits. This includes transfer payments from the federal government.

The band also benefits in other ways. The branch is able to employ four people from the band that allows band members the opportunity of having bank services provided in their own language.

Vice-chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN), Lawrence Joseph, states that these are positive developments: "We feel proud of this development as it brings the banking world more in touch with the Aboriginal community. Our people will not feel so isolated and intimidated by banks, and the banking institutions will be more familiar and comfortable about doing business with us."

To date the branch has done well. The bank has secured over $50 million in deposits and the future looks bright for more economic development. Chief Harry Cook, of the La Ronge band suggests that they are looking for competitors such as the Royal Bank, Scotia bank and Credit Unions to set up branches on the reserve as well.

Much of the band's current development comes from the growing and expanding Kitsaki Development Corporation, which is owned by the band.

Cook points out that because Kitsaki does business with several different banking institutions, "it is a matter of time until other banks follow suit and come on to the reserve." He suggests that this only bolds well for jobs and general prosperity for the entire community.