Sitting Bull College began as Standing Rock Community College (SRCC) on September 21, 1973. On that date, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council granted a charter to SRCC to operate as a post-secondary educational institution with the authority to grant degrees at the Associate level. Recognizing the need for an institution of higher education which would provide opportunities for people in the immediate area, several movers and shakers on the Standing Rock reservation began the process of establishing one of the nation's first tribal colleges.
At the time the charter was granted, different colleges from around the state were offering a number of courses on the reservation. However, there was no coordination of effort and tribal leaders felt that it would be best to go through one institution. Bismarck Junior College (BJC) was designated to be that institution. As ties with BJC strengthened, discussions were begun to determine whether the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe should join other tribes which were in the process of forming their own colleges. A grant to BJC from the Higher Education Act provided money for Standing Rock Community College to begin offering courses. Standing Rock Community College opened its doors officially in July of 1973. The first offices and classrooms were in the Douglas Skye Memorial Retirement Complex in Fort Yates. There were three full-time people on staff.
The process of seeking accreditation was initiated in 1975. Candidate Status for accreditation was granted to Standing Rock Community College in 1978 after a thorough evaluation by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Higher Education. This status meant that the college was recognized as providing service and that it would be ready for full accreditation within six years. Every two years during this six-year period, evaluators returned to the college to document progress. SRCC was visited in the spring of 1980 and again in the spring of 1982. Both times, the teams recommended Candidate Status. The college received full accreditation in 1984. To mark this achievement and recognize their continued growth, the college officially changed their name to Standing Rock College (SRC). The college later received continued accreditation in 1987, 1991, 1996, and ten years in 2004 with approval to begin offering Bachelor of Science programs in Business Administration and Elementary Education. In 2007 SBC received approval to add a Bachelor of Science program in Environmental Science and in 2008 approval was received to add Bachelor of Science programs in Early Childhood Education, Secondary Science Education, and General Studies. In 2014, SBC received an additional ten years of accreditation and has been selected to enter into the new accreditation open pathway. In addition, SBC has been approved to offer a Master’s degree in Environmental Science, a Master’s of Education in Curriculum and Instruction, and also a Bachelor of Arts in Native American Studies. In the spring of 2018, SBC was approved to offer a Bachelor of Social Work degree. In the fall of 2019, SBC was approved to offer a Master’s degree in Business Administration. In the fall of 2021, SBC was approved to offer a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice.
On March 6, 1996, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council voted to officially amend the charter, changing the college's name to Sitting Bull College (SBC). The objectives were not altered, and the college continues to operate as the charter specifies. Currently, there are over 70 full-time faculty, administrative and support staff. The original enrollment of 90 students has grown to approximately 300 each semester. Masters, bachelors, associate, and certificate level career and technical education programs are currently being offered.
While the accreditation activities ensure that Sitting Bull College meets the standards of the higher education agencies, the fact that SBC is tribally controlled means it must also provide services to the Native American community. Advisory boards made up of community members provide input that is relied upon for program continuation and changes. The College Board of Trustees is elected from the eight districts. At the state and national levels, the college is a member of the North Dakota Association of Tribal Colleges and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium.