Since the creation of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Oglala leaders have pressed the federal government to meet the educational obligations it promised in treaties and agreements. With the advent of efforts to extend tribal sovereignty by American Indians throughout the United States came a recognition by Lakotas that control of education is also the control of its destiny. On March 4, 1971, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council exercised its sovereignty by chartering the Lakota Higher Education Center. This marked the commencement of a vision's realization which continues to evolve in the history of the Oglala Lakota.
During its non-accredited years, the college entered into agreements with Black Hills State College, University of South Dakota, and University of Colorado to "borrow" their accreditation for various associate degree programs. Students were taught on the reservation by faculty chosen by the college, but approved by the state institutions, who taught the same courses as offered in South Dakota's colleges. It was a complicated system but it met the needs of students.
The college awarded its first associate degrees in 1974. In 1978, the name of the college was changed to Oglala Sioux Community College to reflect its status as community college. In 1979, Oglala Sioux Community College became a candidate for North Central Association accreditation. The college settled into its dispersed, decentralized campus system which features college centers in each of the nine reservation districts.
In 1980, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council allowed the college to occupy its present administrative center. Piya Wiconi is the most visible symbol of the college but the district centers are where the mission is being fulfilled.
When accreditation was granted in 1983, the degree offerings were a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and Associate Degrees in Education, Human Services, General Studies, Nursing, Lakota Studies, Business and Vocation fields. In subsequent accreditations by North Central in 1987, 1992, and 1994, the college has expanded its Bachelor Degrees in Lakota Studies, Human Services, and Applied Sciences, and a Master's Degree in Tribal Leadership.
At the 1983 annual retreat, OSCC underwent another name change to Oglala Lakota College to reflect its status as a four year degree granting institution and to replace the word Sioux with Lakota. Since Sioux is not a word in our language, the proper word to describe our people is Lakota. Oglala Lakota College is governed by a 13 member Board of Trustees with membership coming from nine reservation districts, one designee from the Oglala Tribal Council, one designee from the OST President, one Council of Elders, and a student representative.
As a result of the comprehensive accreditation review in March of 1998, NCA granted continuing accreditation for all existing degrees, the Master's degree in Lakota Leadership /Management, and an added Master's Degree emphasis in Educational Administration. NCA also removed distance and site limitations.
Oglala Lakota College stands ready to meet the education challenges of the 21st Century and will continue to assume a vital role in the development of the reservation's resources, its people, and the land. Oglala Lakota College has been accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools since June 20, 1983. This accreditation has been continued and expanded in scope with each subsequent comprehensive visit.
The most recent comprehensive visit took place in March 2003, by the Higher Learning Commission, a commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, 230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500, Chicago, Il 60604-1413, telephone number 312-263-0456 or 800-621-7440, FAX 312-263-7462. The college offers accredited degree programs and certificates. The programs in Elementary Education and in Nursing are fully approved by the State of South Dakota. Graduates of the elementary education program are certified by the South Dakota Division of Education, and graduates of the nursing program are permitted to sit for the National Council Licensing Examination (NCLEX) to become Registered Nurses. Bachelor of Social Work was accredited by the Council on Social Work Education in Spring of 2010.