Indian Tribal Colleges

The first tribal college was founded by the Navajo Nation in 1968 in Arizona, and several others were established in the 1970s by other tribes.

As of 1994, most tribal colleges have been authorized by Congress as land-grant colleges.

A “land grant” college receives benefits under the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. The 1862 Morrill Act funded educational institutions by granting federally controlled land to the states for them to sell to raise funds to establish and endow “land-grant” colleges.

The mission of these institutions as set forth in the 1862 Act is to focus on the teaching of practical agriculture, science, military science and engineering.

The Morrill Act of 1890 granted cash instead of land. Most native American colleges received assistance under the 1890 Morrill Act in 1994, and are referred to as land grant colleges.

Tribal colleges are located on or near Indian reservations and provide access to post-secondary education, accredited degrees, and vocational training for both Indian and non-Indian students. Most are sponsored by one individual tribe, but a few are a collaboration of multiple tribes.

Presently, there are 32 fully accredited Tribal Colleges and Universities in the United States, with one formal candidate for accreditation. Three are in Associate Status. These Tribal Colleges and Universities offer 358 total programs, including apprenticeships, diplomas, certificates, and degrees.

These programs include 181 associate degree programs at 23 Tribal Colleges and Universities, 40 bachelor’s degree programs at 11 Tribal Colleges and Universities, and 5 master’s degree programs at 2 Tribal Colleges and Universities.

Located mainly in the Midwest and Southwest, Tribal Colleges and Universities service approximately 30,000 full- and part-time students. According to fall 2010 enrollment data, 8.7% of American Indian and Alaska Native college students were attending one of the 32 accredited Tribal Colleges and Universities.

American Indian and Alaska Native students composed 78% of the combined total enrollment of these institutions in 2010.

The percentage of American Indian and Alaska Native students attending Tribal Colleges and Universities is increasing yearly. According to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of American Indian and Alaska Native students enrolled in Tribal Colleges and Universities increased by 23% between 2001 and 2006.

Tribal Colleges and Universities are both integral and essential to their communities, creating environments that foster American Indian culture, languages, and traditions.

They are often the only postsecondary institutions within some of our Nation’s poorest rural areas. Tribal Colleges and Universities serve a variety of people, from young adults to senior citizens.

They also serve as community resources for crucial social services and add hope to communities that suffer from high rates of poverty and unemployment. And overall, Tribal Colleges and Universities have developed programs where students are achieving.

The American Indian College Fund reports that 86% of tribal college and university students complete their chosen program of study, while fewer than 10% of American Indian and Alaska Native students who go directly from reservation high schools to mainstream colleges and universities finish their bachelor’s degree.

American Indian students have to pay tuition just like everyone else.

However, many tribes do have scholarships available for their tribal members. American Indian students must apply for these scholarships and meet whatever criteria each tribe has set for their particular scholarship.


Article Index:

Aaniiih Nakoda College

Ainiiih Nakoda College was established in 1984 at Harlem, Montana. Located  on the Fort Belknap reservation in north-central Montana, where towns are few and far between,  the distant reservation communities of Browning to the west and Poplar to the east are the closest towns.

Aaniiih Nakoda College  (ANC)
Address: P.O. Box 159, Harlem, MT 59526
Fort Belknap College

Established: 1984
Chartering Tribes: Gros Ventre and Assiniboine
President: Carole Falcon-Chandler
Land Grant College: Yes
Enrollment (Fall 2014): 408

Associate degree programs

  • Allied Health
  • Business
  • Business Technology
  • Carpentry
  • Computer Information Systems
  • Early Childhood Development
  • Education
  • Environmental Science
  • Human Services
  • Liberal Arts
  • Native American Studies
  • Psychology
  • Welding

Non-degree programs/Certificates

  • Carpentry
  • Health Science
  • Natural Resources Water Quality Option
  • Tribal Management
  • Welding

In 1977, the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribes established the Fort Belknap Education Department to provide educational services to tribal members, particularly adult basic education and vocational education.

After years of offering educational credit programs through the College of Great Falls and Chief Dull Knife College, the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribes chartered Fort Belknap College (which changed its name to Aaniiih Nakoda College in 2011) in 1984 in Harlem, Montana on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation.

The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities accredited ANC in 1993; it reaffirmed accreditation in June 2005. ANC received Land Grant Status in 1994.

Home to nearly half of the 6,500 enrolled members of the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine Tribes, the reservation covers just over 1,000 square miles in north central Montana. Much of the reservation consists of farms, ranches and abandoned gold mines. The poor management of these mines and resulting environmental degradation contributed in part to the development of ANC’s strong academic and vocational programs that train tribal members in sound methods of protecting the reservation’s vast natural resources.

In the past, if any ANC allied health graduates wanted to pursue a nursing degree, they had to  leave their community and reside in one of the larger towns in Montana where there are nursing programs. Often this lead to an increased financial burden and removal from their community’s cultural and spiritual lifeway. This became evident through the years, as students from ANC entered nursing programs that have no Indigenous grounding.

 Students left ANC with an empowerment of who they were and excelled in the pre-science courses that are needed for entrance into nursing. Once accepted, however, many were not retained or did not finish or graduate. And yet there is a drastic shortage of nurses in Montana, especially on the state’s seven Indian reservations.

A recent study of health outcomes by the Joseph Wood Johnson Foundation indicated that those counties in or near Indian reservations in Montana have the lowest health outcomes. This finding, along with the shortage of American Indian nurses and students’ experiences at institutions away from home, galvanized ANC to look into developing its own nursing program.

A survey of the Fort Belknap community and the region indicated a need for such a program. The survey also indicated that 89% of respondents said the program should have a cultural emphasis and 94% believed having such a program would impact the health of the community. Accordingly, the college held community meetings with tribal council members; the consensus was that ANC should have a Registered Nursing program.

Since then the college has received funding for a state-of-the-art simulation lab and, most recently, a five-year grant to help fund the program itself as well as train Certified Nursing Assistants for immediate employment. The college has just appropriated two buses so nursing students can be transported to distant clinical sites along the Hi-Line, returning each night to their home communities. The Board of Nursing for Montana approved ANC’s phase one document for the establishment of a new nursing program.

The college’s first nursing students received their certificates in January 2016, and are now eligible for employment. Most will work part-time, finish their studies, and enter into the nursing program this September. This offers students  an opportunity to maintain the cultural integrity of the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine Tribes as well as succeed in an American technological society.

The student body includes 62 percent full-time students, 87 percent Native American students and 56 percent female students.

Alaska Tribal College Index

Alaska Tribal College:


**Signifies accreditation by the Northwest Accreditation Commission

Arizona Tribal College Index

Arizona Tribal Colleges:

Tohono O’odham Community College is a regionally accredited, publicly supported tribal college in Sells, Arizona. TOCC’s student body is 88 percent American Indian/Alaskan Native. Tohono O’odham Community College serves approximately 216 students.

*Signifies accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association

Bay Mills Community College
Blackfeet Community College
Cankdeska Cikana Community College
Chief Dull Knife College
College of Menominee Nation
College of the Muscogee Nation
Comanche Nation College
Diné College
Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College
Fort Peck Community College
Haskell Indian Nations University
Ilisagvik College
Institute of American Indian Arts
Kansas Tribal College Index
Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College
Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College
Leech Lake Tribal College
Little Big Horn College
Little Priest Tribal College
Menominee Nation’s new Green Bay campus
Michigan Tribal College Index
Minnesota Tribal College Index
Montana Tribal College Index
Moor’s Charity School
Navajo Technical University
Nebraska Indian Community College
Nebraska Tribal Collage Index
New Mexico Tribal College Index
North Dakota Tribal College Index
Northwest Indian College
Northwest Indian College offers college courses via video conferencing
Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College
Oglala Lakota College
Oklahoma Tribal College Index
Red Lake Nation College
Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College
Salish Kootenai College
Sinte Gleska University
Sisseton Wahpeton College
Sitting Bull College
South Dakota Tribal College Index
Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute
Stone Child College
Tohono O’odham Community College
Turtle Mountain Community College
United Tribes Technical College
Washington Tribal College Index
White Earth Tribal and Community College
Wind River Tribal College
Wisconsin Tribal College Index
Wyoming Tribal College Index