Sisseton Wahpeton College is part of a long history of education that has gone through many phases and changes since first contact with Europeans. Before the United States of America was a nation, the Sisseton and Wahpeton Bands knew and practiced applied sciences and lifelong learning. Their knowledge of the natural sciences astounded many Europeans who could not accept them as more than primitive savages.
The Sisseton and Wahpeton have survived mission schools, boarding schools, and hundreds of educational laws and policies, and even being banned from their homeland to a reservation. Here in the northeastern corner of the state of South Dakota, the remnants of the two bands were allowed to retain a small triangular-shaped piece of land now known as the Lake Traverse Reservation. Here the elders of the tribe visualized a time when their own people would take control of the education of its youth.
On August 7, 1979, this vision became a reality with the establishment of Sisseton Wahpeton Community College (SWCC). The College received a needed financial boost in 1980 when federal funds were allocated through the Tribally Controlled Community College Assistance Act. While these funds are about half the amount given the individual states for educational assistance, it was enough to get some basic programs established.
In spite of a lack of adequate funding and limited resources, SWCC continued to pursue the vision. In 1983, the College was granted educational candidacy by the North Central Association’s Commission on Institutions of Higher Education. The College received initial accreditation in 1990. In 2002, the College’s name was changed to Sisseton Wahpeton College (SWC). The College has kept its doors open to serve anyone who desires an education. Although the State of South Dakota does not provide any support for the non-Native students attending SWC, they are served alongside Native students.
The College has made enormous strides towards achieving the vision of its Founders. Academic programs include Business, Computers, Counseling, Dakota Language Teaching Certificate, Dakota Studies, Early Childhood Development, General Studies. Nursing, and Vocational Education The College provides such support services as high school equivalency testing, Career Counseling, Financial Aid, Library Services, and the Learning Lab.
The College has made its resources available to the tribe. The tribe is one of a few nationwide that has accepted the challenge to develop and administer welfare reform measures. SWC is a partner in this effort to prove basic education needs and job readiness training. As the tribe enters the new millennium, SWC will continue its mission to meet the ever changing needs of its tribal members and community.