California Indian Nations College is Southern California’s First Accredited Tribal College

PALM DESERT  – Palm Desert is home to what will be California’s first fully accredited two-year tribal college. California Indian Nations College (CINC) is an intertribal college chartered by the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians that incorporates and supports indigenous culture, native language revitalization, and the strengthening of traditional Native American values.

All are welcome to enroll at CINC, but the college specializes in serving under-represented and at-risk populations, specifically Native American students and those interested in a traditional Native approach to higher education. Courses are fully-accredited through a partnership with the College of the Desert while CINC is undergoing the accreditation process with the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC).

History of Tribal Colleges/Universities (TCUs)

Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) grew from an era of “Self-Determination” by Native American/Indigenous people who sought tribal sovereignty during the 1960s. Through challenges and perseverance, the first TCU was established by the Navajo Nation in 1968.  Originally known as Navajo Community College, today is known as the Diné College, located Tsaile, Arizona.  The development of the Diné  College had inspired other tribal communities to create and establish postsecondary educational institutions.

According to the [1]American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), a nonprofit organization supporting accredited Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) in the United States, there are currently 37 TCUs with zero located in the State of California.  There are currently over 570 federally recognized tribes throughout the United States and nearly 20% are located in California.  California is the home to a population of [2]778,571 American Indian/Alaskan Native; nearly 800,000 Native Americans and CINC is the first Tribal College.

Why a Tribal College?

An Intro to California Indian Nations CollegeA 2019 special report on tribal colleges from the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE) shows that AIAN students are more successful at tribal colleges, in fact, they are four times more likely to receive a Bachelor’s degree than those who enroll in a mainstream four-year university straight out of high school.  [3]Only 14% of Native Americans hold a college degree compared with 28% of the non-Native population.  For every Native American college graduate, there are 30 non-Native American graduates.  This gap has been growing larger over the past 40 years.  California Indian Nations College aims to address these inequities.

California Indian Nations College

An Intro to California Indian Nations College

California Indian Nations College first graduation class in 2019.

California Indian Nations College (CINC) will be the first accredited two-year tribal college in California. We serve a crucial role in increasing educational access to and success in higher education for Native Americans.  Over the past two years, many CINC students claim to have held back on attending College due to an uncomfortable environment, lack of support and personal services, and the historical atrocities of colonized education.  A tribal college to alleviate these setbacks is critical as American Indians have some of the lowest (often the lowest) rates of educational attainment in the state and nation, adversely affecting their lives and communities.  As history conveys, mainstream education was the initial tool used to eliminate the Native American identity, culture, language, and communities.

CINC not only recognizes the stigma of colonized education, CINC integrates tribal values and culture into the college curriculum, into its services, and its vision, providing a safe, cultural, and familiar environment strengthens the post-secondary education experience for each student.  CINC creates an environment conducive to the enrollment of Native American students in an institution that uniquely enhances the educational and workforce needs and strengthens tribal sovereignty.  CINC educates, strengthens, and empowers the local and tribal communities.

In the Fall of 2020, fifty-five (55) undergraduate students enrolled at CINC, a 22% increase from the previous Fall and a 162% increase from the first term in Fall 2018.  CINC provides concurrent enrollment opportunities for high school students who look for the experience and benefits of college courses while still in high school.  The California high school graduation rate for American Indians is 11.4% lower than the overall rate and the college-going rate is 14.4% lower than the overall rate. CSU and UC graduation rates are also over 11% lower than the overall graduation rates. CINC provides a much-needed bridge between high school and a four-year institution.  Native American students face incredible hurdles; thus, reaching them in high school provides a positive head start to college.

While CINC targets the underserved Native American population, CINC is open to all who students interested in the growth and development through Indian education.  Our objectives are:

  1. to become the first two-year tribal college in the state of California accredited through the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC);
  2. to increase student access to higher education and improve success rates (retention, graduation, university transfer) through high-quality and culturally-relevant curriculum, programs, and student success services;
  3. to build local and tribal community partnerships that enable students to participate in workforce development programs, internships, and trainings.

CINC is a monumental establishment that will educate, strengthen, and empower the tribal communities, local communities, and beyond.

About CINC

California Indian Nations College is an independent, 501(c)(3) non-profit, two-year tribal college chartered by the Twenty­Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians. CINC serves the region with fully-accredited culturally­responsive college classes, personalized student support, and community services, that includes a high school equivalency program, tutoring, and individualized advising and mentoring. CINC provides a pathway to cultural revitalization and the stabilization of Native tradition and values that benefits both our Native and non-Native students. To learn more about or donate to California Indian Nations College, call 760-834-0593 or visit, like California Indian Nations College on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @CINCollege.

[2] U.S. Census Bureau; American FactFinder. B02010  AMERICAN INDIAN AND ALASKA NATIVE ALONE OR IN COMBINATION WITH ONE OR MORE OTHER RACES; Universe: People who are American Indian or Alaska Native alone or in combination with one or more races. 2017 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. Table B02010.
[3] American Indian College Fund statistic, July 2019

Image Sources

  • Field trip: California Indian Nations College