ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Albuquerque community college serving Native Americans is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute off Coors near Paseo began welcoming students in September of 1971.

Since then, it has graduated more than 36,000 students from 260 tribes in STEM and other fields. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland says she first visited the school the year it opened, helping a causing move into the dorms.

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“Parents of loved ones proudly moved students into their residences, watching classmates meeting each other for the first time. And this was all in the backdrop of an institution that weaves culture and traditions into the curriculum,” said Secretary Haaland.

During the visit, which coincided with National Voter Registration Day, Secretary Haaland highlighted SIPI’s recent designation as a voter registration agency. The college is one of only two post-secondary institutions operated by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Education.