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
Formerly: Fort Belknap College
Chartering Tribes: Gros Ventre and Assiniboine
President: Carole Falcon-Chandler
Land Grant College: Yes
Enrollment (Fall 2014): 408
Associate degree programs
- Allied Health
- Business Technology
- Computer Information Systems
- Early Childhood Development
- Environmental Science
- Human Services
- Liberal Arts
- Native American Studies
- Health Science
- Natural Resources Water Quality Option
- Tribal Management
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.