Bacone College: A Historic Native American-Serving Institution

Bacone College: A Historic Native American-Serving Institution

Melissa W.

In celebration and recognition of Indigenous Peoples Day, we’re taking a look at Bacone College in Oklahoma which is known as a historic Native American-serving institution, having begun classes in “Indian Territory” long before Oklahoma was formed as a state.

Founded in 1880, Bacone College (originally Indian College) is a private liberal arts college and is the oldest continuously operated institution of higher education in Oklahoma. The college is known for its strong historic ties to several tribal nations with five Oklahoma Tribes currently chartering:

  • United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians of Oklahoma
  • Osage Nation
  • Otoe-Missouria Tribe
  • Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes
  • Kiowa Tribe

According to their website, Bacone College is “a historically Native American serving college and maintains that portion of its mission, our student body includes women and men from diverse backgrounds: Tribal, Hispanic, African-American, and Anglo. Likewise, the best of our Christian heritage (originally founded and supported by the American Baptist Churches, USA) undergirds our life together -- without mandating it for anyone. Today, Bacone College is moving away from private-college status toward its goal to become a public Tribal College.”

The college has been under new leadership since 2018 and “...began the process of fully returning to the mission of genuine Indian education to prepare and empower the Indigenous populations of all tribal communities/nations throughout the United States. Bacone has streamlined academic, athletic and club programs and ensured that all areas of the college are meeting the needs of Indian students, their tribes and families.”

Bacone College has a 49% Native American staff and 65% Native American student population representing more than 40 tribes/nations. Some areas of study include:

  • Indian Art
  • American Indian Studies
  • American Indian Ministry
  • Tribal Law & Criminal Justice

The college was on the verge of closing before new leadership took over in 2018 and has since been thriving, continuing the legacy it began 140 years ago.


Cover Photo from Indian Country Today.

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