Edwards School honours Keith Martell at Spring Convocation.

Edwards School honours chief executive officer of Canada's first independent Aboriginal bank, Keith Martell at Spring Convocation.


As the chief executive officer of Canada’s first independent Aboriginal bank, Keith Martell understands precisely how education creates opportunity.

A member of Saskatchewan’s Waterhen Lake First Nation and a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) commerce program back in 1985, Martell went on to become one of the founders of the First Nations Bank of Canada, which now boasts close to half a billion dollars in assets and is controlled by 80 per cent Aboriginal ownership. Martell’s rapid rise in the banking industry will be celebrated at U of S Spring Convocation when he becomes one of six individuals granted honorary degrees.

For Martell, the education that he received at the U of S was critical to his success and he believes it is key to the future of Saskatchewan’s growing Aboriginal population, which is projected to make up more 20 per cent of the province over the next 15 years, according to Statistics Canada.

“That is one thing that I think the U of S has the most opportunity to do, because we have a pretty vibrant Aboriginal economy in Saskatchewan and good leadership in communities that do very well, so if people take that education and apply it and get experience, they can go a long way,” said Martell.

“In Canada today somewhere around 80 per cent of Canadian lawyers (of Aboriginal heritage) got their start from the U of S (Native Law Centre) program, so that’s significant,” he added. “That tells you that the many fine Aboriginal lawyers across the country got their start because the University of Saskatchewan focused on giving them a step-up, not a hand-out but a step-up, to getting a law degree.”

Martell turned his education into a 10-year stint with the chartered accounting firm KPMG, before helping establish the First Nations Bank of Canada, the only chartered bank headquartered in Saskatchewan. Martell also worked with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and is on the board of directors of Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. In 2001, The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business magazine named Martell as a member of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40, a prestigious list of business and social leaders under the age of 40.

“Mr. Martell is a leader in the Aboriginal community and an influential innovator in the Canadian banking industry,” said U of S President Peter Stoicheff. “He is one of the shining examples of the kinds of graduates the University of Saskatchewan is proud to call our own, and to recognize with an honorary degree.”

Martell received his Honorary Doctor of Laws on June 1 at TCU Place, during the 9 am convocation ceremony for U of S College of Law and Edwards School of Business students.

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