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Winter Count
Events that developed United Tribes into a premier tribal higher education institution
29 July 2009


In 2009, United Tribes Technical College marks its 40th year of service to American Indian students and their families. The college got its start in the vision and activism of North Dakota’s tribal leaders. During the 1960s, tribes were faced with threats to their sovereignty and challenged by the need for training and jobs development for their citizens. Banding together, they founded the United Tribes of North Dakota Development Corporation, incorporated in the state of North Dakota in 1968. The incorporators were: Aljoe Agard (Standing Rock Tribe), Lewis Goodhouse (Devils Lake Tribe), Reginald Breien (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa), August Little Soldier (Three Affiliated Tribes) and Austin Engel, North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission director. When Fort Lincoln south of Bismarck became available, tribal leaders set out to secure the 105 acres, with its historic red brick buildings, for a jobs training facility for Indian families. A determined effort to secure the former military property was spearheaded by Theodore “Tiny Bud” Jamerson (Standing Rock Tribe). The training facility they established became United Tribes Employment Training Center, with Jamerson as its first coordinator. The Bendix Field Engineering Corporation won the bid to manage the start of training operations, which commenced on July 1, 1969.

Winter Count

In September, the first students arrived with their families and began receiving vocational training at United Tribes Employment Training Center (UTETC), founded by leaders of Three Affiliated Tribes, Devils Lake Tribe, Standing Rock Tribe, and Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. Among the first students were Genevieve Azure (Turtle Mountain) and Helen and Basil Alkire (Standing Rock).

A new prime contract with the Bureau of Indian Affairs was signed by United Tribes of North Dakota Development Corporation Board Chairman Lewis Goodhouse (Devils Lake Tribe).

United Tribes of North Dakota concluded its successful start-up contract with the Bendix Field Engineering Corporation, Columbia, Maryland, and assumed full, tribal control and supervision of vocational training programs at the center.

Under the leadership of new Executive Director Warren Means, United Tribes reorganized, resulting in more tribal members on staff (63%) and the recruitment of “University Year in ACTION” students and VISTA volunteers from around the country.

Theodore Jamerson Elementary School opened on the campus to serve the children of students. The school was dedicated and named for Theodore “Tiny Bud” Jamerson (Standing Rock Tribe), the center’s first director and principal founder.

Nurse’s Aide student Effie Fighting Bear (Crow Agency) and Food Services student Joe Benson (Three Affiliated) became the first couple married in the training center’s chapel. The annual Thanksgiving dinner, enjoyed by 427 students and staff, was prepared by George Karn, head of food services, and Eva Koch, Verna Tiokasin and Al Stockert, staff cooks.

The United Tribes charter was amended to change the center’s name to “United Tribes Educational Technical Center.” The Sisseton-Wahpeton Tribe was added to the center’s governing board, United Tribes of North Dakota.

Planning moved forward on new campus facilities after United Tribes and the city of Bismarck resolved two years of discord over the city’s recommendation to relocate the center for expansion of the Bismarck airport.

New construction began on campus following groundbreaking for a $3.5 million vocational skills center and receipt of a $300 thousand grant for a child day care facility; David M. Gipp (Standing Rock) became the center’s new executive director.

United Tribes received candidate status for accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools at the certificate granting level.

The first class of Licensed Practical Nurses graduated from United Tribes during a capping ceremony.

UTETC hosted the center’s first cultural arts show in June; over 600 people viewed the work of 29 artists in the new Skill Center Building.

UTETC modified the cycle of its academic year by switching from a 12 month open entry and exit system to the quarter system, establishing three yearly terms of 12 weeks in length that began with the Fall Term 1981.

United Tribes continued to serve its students after experiencing a 29% cut in the center’s base operating budget by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The center was forced to operate on a four-day work week to remain open. Three Affiliated Tribes made the first contribution in an effort to develop independent sources of financial support.

Funding cuts at United Tribes were addressed by Congress resulting in approval of line-item status in the Bureau of Indian Affairs annual budget. At the state level, the North Dakota Legislature considered but did not pass a bill to provide state funding for tribal colleges.

United Tribes hosted the annual conference of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium and the Second Annual National Indian Athletic Conference Basketball Championships. UTETC student athletes also competed in their second season of intercollegiate cross country competition under Coach Dave Archambault Sr.

United Tribes introduced course offerings in its first two-year program, Medical Records.

Making Native culture and language the centerpiece of Indian education policy was the central topic of the National Indian Education Association’s 19th annual conference held in Bismarck. United Tribes was involved in organizing and hosting educators from across the nation concerned with educating Indian youth and adults.

The United Tribes charter was amended to change the center’s name to “United Tribes Technical College.” The college modified the cycle of its academic year, switching from quarters to semesters.

The U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency recognized the United Tribes North Dakota Indian Business Development Center with an award for having the most comprehensive Minority Enterprise Development Week.

United Tribes staff and students joined Bismarck and the State of North Dakota to welcome President George H.W. Bush to the State Capitol in Bismarck for a state centennial event. Faculty member Butch Thunder Hawk was commissioned to design the artwork for a North Dakota Centennial Native American logo.
UTTC received initial funding under the Federal Carl Perkins Vocational and Technologies Act of 1990.

Students from United Tribes won the AIHEC Knowledge Bowl at the annual student competitions held in Wisconsin.

United Tribes was approved for a Bush Foundation planning grant for faculty development as the first step of a long-term program of human resource and teaching staff development.

UTTC received general authority to offer Associate of Applied Science degrees for all of its vocational and academic programs.

United Tribes received designation as a Tribal Land Grant institution.

United Tribes entered the era of distance education by offering classes for the first time over the North Dakota Interactive Video Network (IVN) in the college’s Skill Center Building.

As UTTC began its 27th year, college leaders inspired and motivated the staff and faculty by involving elders and children in the annual staff orientation program.

A cultural group from United Tribes participated in the inaugural parade for President William Jefferson Clinton at the start of his second term in office. United Tribes published a student yearbook for the first time.

The UTTC Automotive Technology Department received National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification.

United Tribes instituted a “no smoking” policy, prohibiting smoking in campus buildings.

United Tribes acquired 132 acres of land immediately south of the college for future expansion and development of a new campus.  A donation from the American Indian College Fund assisted in the purchase.

United Tribes received 10 years of continuing accreditation, without stipulation, from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Dedication ceremonies were held for the newly constructed Jack Barden Student Life and Technology building that featured a computer lab, high-tech instructional equipment, the college bookstore, and meeting space.

United Tribes received unrestricted title to the college property that was formerly Fort Lincoln, a one-time military post that also served as an alien interment facility for Japanese and German American citizens and German Nationals during WWII.

After 20 years as separate events, the United Tribes “Parade of Champions” and the Bismarck-Mandan “FolkFest Parade” merged into one community cultural event on the weekend of the United Tribes International Powwow, held since 1969 on the college campus.

United Tribes graduated a cohort of four students who earned Bachelor’s Degrees in Elementary Education through a cooperative program with Sinte Gleska University.

Federal and state dignitaries joined United Tribes in dedicating the newly constructed Lewis Goodhouse Wellness Center and breaking ground for the 24 unit August Little Soldier Apartment Complex that was built with student and staff labor.

United Tribes marked David M. Gipp’s 30 years as its leader with honoring events and by establishing a scholarship fund in his name.

Planning began for institutional change that will result in United Tribes offering Baccalaureate Degree programs.

A traditional tribal winter count is typically a compilation in drawing form of the main events experienced by a tribe each year. This written version of a winter count was compiled by the United Tribes 40 History Subcommittee: Charlene Weis, chair; Anne Kuyper, Glenna Muller, Ann Kraft, Kathy Aller, Phil Baird, Dennis J. Neumann.