Previously known as Dull Knife Memorial College, CDKC was renamed in 2001 to emphasize the significance of Dull Knife as a chief and respected historical leader of the Northern Cheyenne people. Chief Dull Knife, also known as Chief Morning Star, fighting with great courage and against overwhelming odds, led his band of Northern Cheyenne back to their homeland to maintain the sovereignty of the tribe.
It was noticed that few Cheyenne who were attending colleges away from the reservation were actually graduating; many were dropping out and returning to the reservation. Theories were advanced that students were having difficulty adjusting to a culturally different environment; another that they were being subjected to racial discrimination. Cheyenne students often had family responsibilities, caring for children or elderly relatives, while the available educational institutions were located far from the reservation. Students from the tribe were not adequately prepared for rigorous academic work due to poor quality education and resources. These problems are shared by many tribes and the tribal colleges and universities movement began among American Indian educators to provide educational opportunities to Indian students that were tailored to their cultural and educational needs. Beginning with Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona in the Navajo Nation in 1968, tribal colleges were opened on many reservations.
Chartered in September 1975 under the leadership of former tribal president John Woodenlegs, Dull Knife Memorial College originally operated in army tents training students in mining, construction and forestry for development in nearby communities. In 1975 funding for permanent facilities was granted by the BIA. In 1978, it began to offer academic courses leading to Associate of Arts and Associate of Applied Science degrees, as well as vocational certificates. Associate degrees generally require two years of work over 6 semesters. It has proven difficult due to lack of funding to fully realize the cultural goals related to Cheyenne culture, but significant progress has been made. Enrollment is 85% American Indian with 90% of the students having a background of poverty.
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