Navajo Technical University (NTU) was born out of the determination of the tribal college movement, in which tribal nations from throughout the region of North America exercised their sovereignty in taking ownership of their education. At the heart of the movement was the idea that Navajos and other American Indian people had a right to be free and equal to determine their own future through schools that taught from the strength of language and culture, providing a conceptual bridge to contemporary knowledge, skills, values, and attributes.
The movement was launched in 1966 out of the experiments in Indian education that started with the founding of the Rough Rock Demonstration School, and extended into higher education with the founding of Navajo Community College in 1969. The movement was progressive and noted for the bravery it took in challenging the effectiveness of mainstream colleges and universities in their effectiveness with serving Native American students. What started with Navajo Community College, or Diné College, spread to other tribal nations and included the founding of NTU’s early beginnings as the Navajo Skills Center (NSC).
NSC opened in 1979 as part of the Navajo Division of Labor. The intent was to provide vocational training to the local communities by offering five-full time programs in job skills in the areas of business/office occupations, culinary arts, computer science, and construction trades. In 1982 the Advisory Committee of the Navajo Tribal Council established the Center as a tribally-chartered entity and in 1984 was accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
The Center operated effectively, but it soon became clear that students wanted more than knowledge in a trade or vocational program and the Board of Directors changed the name to Crownpoint Institute of Technology (CIT) in 1985. As CIT expanded its educational offerings to include associate level degrees, and it improved its infrastructure and facilities as well as its increasing influence in the academic community. Much of these improvements occurred after 1994 when Executive Mandate by the United States designed CIT as a Land Grant college.
The mandate was a turn from the historical practice of higher education to focus on an abstract liberal arts curriculum and emphasized the teaching of practical agriculture, science, military science and engineering as a response to the industrial revolution and changing social class. The switch in practice helped shape NTU’s identity and mission moving forward, and called for another name change in order to address an expanding mission.
In 2006, the Navajo Nation Council approved changing the name of CIT to Navajo Technical College under Navajo Nation Council Resolution CN-58-06. By 2007, NTC had formed a partnership with Workforce Development for educational space in Chinle and a year later had received site accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission for a new instructional site and a year later, in 2012, NTC would develop another instructional site in Teec Nos Pos Arizona to service the Four Corners region of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado. With the approval of a Master of Arts degree in Diné Culture, Language & Leadership in 2013, the university would change its name once more to Navajo Technical University, where it stands as one the premier technical vocational universities in the southwest. Bond/Wilson Technical Center located in Kirtland, NM and NTU-Pueblo of Zuni-instructional site, located in Zuni, NM were established 2018.