Throughout its entire history, the College has maintained its commitment to the economic, social, and cultural advancement of Indian families. The College provides housing, recreational facilities, a child development center, and an elementary school for its students and their families. It also provides counseling, placement, medical services, transportation and other support services, all focused on the unique social and cultural context of its students. For over 46 years, UTTC has served over ten thousand American Indian students from more than 75 federally recognized Indian Tribes across the nation.
United Tribes Technical College was founded in 1969 by an intertribal organization, the United Tribes of North Dakota Development Corporation. It is a nonprofit corporation incorporated in the State of North Dakota and operated by the five tribes wholly or in part in North Dakota. Those tribes are the Three Affiliated Tribes, the Spirit Lake Tribe, the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. The College is governed by a ten-member board of directors made up of the chairperson and one delegate selected from each of the tribes.
The College was founded to provide a community in which Indian people can acquire an education and obtain employment. Programs which have been added over the years have kept this initial purpose in mind, providing not only occupational education and training but also individual and social skills in a culturally-relevant setting, with an emphasis on children and families.
The brick buildings that house the College near Bismarck, North Dakota, were built from 1900 to 1910 as a military base -- the second Fort Abraham Lincoln. During World War II, Fort Lincoln was designated as an alien internment camp operated by the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the U. S. Department of Justice. A portion of the fort was fenced off and some of the buildings were used to detain German merchant seamen from impounded freighters and several thousand civilian Americans of German and Japanese descent (Snow Country Prison). In 1948, Fort Lincoln was designated the headquarters for the Garrison Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, serving as the planning center for the Garrison Dam Project. The Fort was declared surplus by the military in 1966, remodeled, and used as a Job Corps Training Center until 1968. It was also used by the Peace Corps for training in 1968. When that closed, United Tribes obtained the use of the property as its campus. It acquired ownership in 1974.
Initially, United Tribes was a residential employment training program which was named United Tribes Employment Training Center. The Bendix Field Corporation provided training services for the Center in its very early years, turning operation and control over to the United Tribes of North Dakota Development Corporation in 1971. It was, thus, the first "intertribally controlled and operated postsecondary vocational school in the nation."
As times changed so did the College. In 1975, it became United Tribes Educational Technical Center to reflect a change emphasizing technology. With further change, the Educational Technical Center changed its name again in 1987 to United Tribes Technical College. This change reflected the vision to provide increasingly relevant postsecondary education to students in an increasingly complex world.
UTTC made a major change in 1987 and asked the North Central Association to accredit two of its vocational programs at the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree level. NCA conducted a review of the college and accredited two degrees, one in Licensed Practical Nursing and the other in Medical Records Technology. At the same time, the institution's name was changed to United Tribes Technical College. Another accreditation review occurred in the spring of 1990 whereby NCA approved accredited degrees in the Business Clerical and Criminal Justice programs. In the summer of 1993, three additional programs - Automotive Service Technology; Art/Art Marketing; and Early Childhood Education - were accredited through 2001 by NCA. UTTC has the world's only Injury Prevention program at the AAS level. With the arrival of the new millennium and increased Tribal workforce needs, the college introduced new programs such as Tribal Management, Tourism & Hospitality Management, Computer Information Technology, and Medical Transcription & Coding.
In the spring of 2003, the College requested an institutional change from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association (NCA) to include authority to offer full degree programs online. NCA conducted a focus visit in April 2003 to evaluate the Online Education program and by November 2003, UTTC was approved to offer Early Childhood Education and Injury Prevention degrees online. In 2004, the College requested three additional degree programs for NCA approval, which was granted for Elementary Education, Health Information Technology, and Nutrition & Food Services. UTTC is the only Tribal college in the U.S. with accredited online degree programs.
Recognizing the need for accreditation, the College applied for and was granted candidacy for accreditation status by the North Central Association (NCA) in 1978. In the spring of 1982, United Tribes received full membership in NCA as a postsecondary vocational school.