One of the biggest rights Native Americans have fought for since white settlers came to this land is a right to education. While settlers provided boarding schools, the goals of these institutions were more about assimilating Native Americans than anything else. It wasn’t until 1924 that Congress acknowledged the horrible educational and healthcare conditions with the Meriam Report, a survey of conditions on Indian Reservations.
In the 1960s, Native Americans began a “self determination” movement, which led to the formation of Tribal Colleges. After hard work, the Navajo nation established the first tribal college in 1968 and more began to follow. Wanting to strengthen their institutions, six tribal colleges founded the American Indian Higher Education Consortium in 1973. That same year, tribal leaders in the Three Affiliated Tribes founded the Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College on the Fort Berthold Reservation.
A steering committee developed the initial operations, but was soon replaced with a Board of Directors in 1974 when the school was officially chartered. At first the school relied on other accredited institutions, which offered classes on an extension basis. The first schools they worked with were the University of Mary, Minot State College, and the University of North Dakota in Williston. After some long range planning, the college improved the educational and vocational services, and on this date in 1988, the Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College was granted accreditation.
The college continued to grow, and in 2011 it became a four-year institution when the accreditation expanded to include bachelor of science degrees in elementary education and environmental science, and bachelor of arts in Native American studies.
Tribal Colleges are an invaluable resource for Native Americans. Native students are more likely to graduate from those schools, they have no college debt, and they contribute to their communities as they address some of North Dakota’s most urgent workforce demands. A recent study estimates the colleges have an annual impact of $145 million on the state's economy.
Dakota Datebook by Lucid Thomas