Native Americans have had to fight off assimilation since colonizers first arrived. One strategy is to establish tribal colleges.
Many influential people on the Standing Rock reservation had seen need for higher education, and on September 21, 1973, the Tribal Council granted a charter for Standing Rock Community College, which would offer Associate-level degrees.
Before that, different colleges from around the state had been offering a number of courses on the reservation, but there was no coordination of effort. Tribal leaders felt it would be best to go through one institution, and Bismarck Junior College was chosen. Eventually, the idea of joining other tribes in forming their own college took root, and when Standing Rock Community College opened its doors for the first time, the offices and classrooms were in the Douglas Skye Memorial Retirement Complex in Fort Yates. There were only three full-time people on staff and about 90 students.
Two years later they began seeking accreditation. In 1978, the school was granted candidate status, meaning they would likely reach accreditation in six years. They were checked every two years and achieved full accreditation in 1984. The college celebrated by changing the name to Standing Rock College. Twelve years later, on this date, the Tribal Council voted for today’s name, Sitting Bull College.
The institution has continued to grow and now offers Bachelor of Science programs in business administration, environmental science, early childhood education, secondary science education, special education, and general studies. The college typically has 300 students each semester and 70 full-time staff.
It started small, Sitting Bull College has now grown into a cornerstone of the reservation community, with a presence in Fort Yates in North Dakota, and McLaughlin and Mobridge in South Dakota.
Dakota Datebook by Lucid Thomas