College Namesake

Paul Yankton Sr.

Cankdeska Cikana Community College was named in honor of Paul Yankton Sr. whose Dakota name was Cankdeska Cikana. Paul Yankton Sr. was a recipient of two Purple Hearts and died on November 29, 1944, while serving as a rifleman with the United States Army's 11thInfantry at Lorraine, France.

Cankdeska Cikana was a proud warrior who believed in self-responsibility and the need for educational opportunities for Indian people. In May 1995 the Board of Regents officially changed the name of the institution to Cankdeska Cikana Community College. Mr. Yankton's son, Paul Jr., has a lifetime appointment as Chairman of the Board of Regents.

Cankdeska Cikana translates into English as Little Hoop and is pronounced "Chauñ-GDEH-sh'kah CHEE-kah-nah".




Paul Yankton Jr.


Paul Yankton, Jr. was the Chairman, CCCC Board of Regents and was an education leader for the Spirit Lake Dakota Tribe and it’s tribal college for over 32 years. He had vision and dedicated his life to creating an education system that works for the Spirit Lake Dakota people. Paul, Jr. passed away on February 5, 2014.





Cankdeska Cikana Community College History

campus rendering


Even as the Spirit Lake Nation was concentrating efforts on the elementary and secondary system, it was becoming obvious there was a severe need for a post-secondary institution to provide vocational and academic programs. Prior to the establishment of the tribal college, students who chose to pursue their education beyond high school were required to attend non-Indian colleges, at locations distant from their families and reservation. Even for the best prepared students, adapting to the simultaneous stresses of moving, adjusting to a non-Indian society, coupled with a new academic environment, was too great a challenge. Subsequently, many Native students who enrolled in college dropped out in the first year. The cumulative social effect was that other potential students saw Native students fail and concluded that college was not for them.

Tribal leaders across the nation recognized these barriers to education for their people. Their goal, and Spirit Lake's goal in developing tribal colleges and universities (TCUs), was to establish a tribal, community college where students could be provided a greater chance to succeed by integrating culture into the learning environment. Theoretically, local success would increase self-confidence and encourage students to complete four-year degrees at other institutions.

The efforts of Spirit Lake tribal leaders culminated in the 1974 charter establishing Little Hoop Community College. The College is named in honor of Cankdeska Cikana (meaning Little Hoop), the Dakota name of Paul Yankton, Sr., PFC, who served with the United States Army's 11th infantry at Lorraine, France, and was the recipient of two Purple Hearts. He was killed in action on November, 29, 1944. Cankdeska Cikana was a proud Dakota warrior who believed in self-responsibility and the need for education opportunities for Native people.

Ina cante sica unsni wo.
Mother do not be sad

He wimaca eca okicize wanbdake kta.
I am a man so I will see the war.

He Cankdeska Cikana heye ka maka mahed iwanka.
That is what Little Hoop said and laid down into the earth.

The vision behind the founding of Little Hoop Community College was to provide post-secondary education in a Dakota cultural setting that was familiar and that maintained the supportive network of the family. At the development phase, in 1974, the Spirit Lake Nation entered into a bilateral agreement with Lake Region Junior College (Devils Lake, ND, and about 15 miles from Fort Totten) for the purpose of founding a college on the reservation. Funded by a Title III Developing Institutions grant, the college began operations with offices in the tribal administration building. Four staff members were employed under the grant: an academic dean, a director, counselor, and a secretary. The college opened for its first classes in January 1975. The first full-time instructor was hired for a secretarial program, and for the next five years, the college was funded under Title III. In 1978, the college joined with three other Indian post-secondary institutions to form a North Dakota Vocational Consortium. The consortium was funded for six years under the Vocational Educational Act, which permitted Little Hoop Community College and its sister institutions to develop and equip vocational programs.

In 1980, the Bureau of Indian Affairs conducted a feasibility study to determine eligibility of Little Hoop Community College for funds under PL 95-471, the Tribally Controlled Community College Assistance Act. The areas examined were legal requirements, goals and objectives, curriculum, student records, isolation factors, enrollment, faculty, staff, and budget. Cankdeska Cikana Community College became an independent, tribally-controlled, community college and began receiving funds under PL 95-471 in September 1980.

The bilateral agreement with the Lake Region Community College was discontinued in 1982, and that same year, Little Hoop (English version was originally used for the institution's name) Community College was accepted as a Candidate for Accreditation status by North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. In the summer of 1984, the college acquired the buildings that had housed the Bureau of Indian Affairs elementary and secondary schools, which provided the college with sufficient space to house all staff and programs at one centrally-located campus.

With the establishment of independent status, the College began forging a new, revitalized mission and identity—a process that continues today. Prior to this point, the College had been forced to comply with many external definitions of its status, both through its agreement with Lake Region Community College and funding constraints imposed through vocational education requirements.

From humble beginnings in temporary quarters, a two-year tribal, community college providing a quality higher education that considers the special needs of the reservation population has evolved. On February 23, 1990, Cankdeska Cikana Community College was granted accreditation at the Associate Degree-granting level from North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The importance of accreditation to the college cannot be understated. Accreditation recognizes the College as an institution of higher education that is in compliance with external standards regarding academics, policies, and management. It also allows the College access to a network of resources for technical assistance, self-evaluation, and a continuous improvement process. Finally, a vital sense of pride is instilled in the students and community that we have, and rightfully deserve, a 'real college'; not an industrial training school or manual arts program, but an institution of higher learning preparing students to be the leaders of the future.

The College has been a cause of, and affected by, a newly emerging sense of cultural pride and self-sufficiency. A major change from those early days has been a shift in emphasis from wholly vocational to a more academically-oriented program. While Cankdeska Cikana still offers short-term certificate programs for those seeking skills for entry-level positions, the College offers a range of programs in professional fields and the liberal arts. As a result of these programs, more tribal members are working as accountants, programmers, administrators, and teachers in reservation industries and schools, as well as the skilled laborers, clerks, and secretaries.