Turtle Mountain Community College (TMCC) is one of the original six tribal colleges that were established by various Indian Tribes in the early 1970’s. The Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe chartered the college in 1972. The Turtle Mountain Community College is located in north central North Dakota in the historical wooded, hilly, and lake-filled area known as the Turtle Mountains. This area is one of North Dakota’s few all-service and all-seasons recreational areas. In addition to being the home of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa the area is the home of the world-renowned International Peace Garden.
In its brief history the college has emerged as a leader among this nation’s 32 tribal colleges. Its origin was humble. For the first few years the college operated out of two offices on the third floor of a former Catholic Convent. For a short period the college operated out of the basement of an abandoned IHS facility. In 1977 the college moved into an abandoned tribal building and a BIA facility that had been moved to Belcourt’s main street by a tribal member who had converted the building to a café and dance hall. It was on Belcourt’s main street that the college later purchased and renovated several old buildings and as funding became available built a series of primarily metal buildings.
In May 1999 the college moved to a new campus and a new facility. The new facility is located 2 1/2 miles north of Belcourt. Trees and vegetation surround the new site that overlooks Belcourt Lake. Turtle Mountain Community College’s new main campus includes a 105,000-sq/ft building located on an approximately 123-acre site.The new facility includes state of the art technology, a fiscal area, general classrooms, science, mathematics and engineering classrooms and labs, library and archives, learning resource centers, faculty area, student services area, gymnasium and mechanical systems. A new auditorium with seating capacity for 1000 opened in 2003. The former main campus in Belcourt has twelve buildings that provide 66,000 square feet of space. Both campuses are being used for college or community use. The two campuses house all college functions with the exception of some off-campus community responsive training programs. Turtle Mountain Community College is a commuter campus and maintains no residence halls.
Since its beginning the college has grown from a fledgling institution serving less than sixty students per year, to its current status of serving over 650 full time equivalents and approximately 250 pre-college adults. Indeed, Turtle Mountain Community College has demonstrated success in enrolling and graduating students. The college serves the tribal community in other ways too. Its many programs are helping to build local capacity to effect positive systemic change by improving all levels of educational achievement of tribal members and public and private economic sustainability of Turtle Mountain Chippewa.