D–Q University

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Coordinates: 38°34′02″N 121°53′13″W / 38.567093°N 121.886959°W / 38.567093; -121.886959

D-Q University logo

D–Q University was a two-year college located on Road 31 in Yolo County, 6.7 miles (10.8 km) west of State Route 113 in California. Founded in 1971, it was among the first six tribal colleges and universities (TCU) in the United States, and the first established in California. It was not affiliated with a single federally recognized tribe or reservation, as are numerous other tribal colleges.

The school ended its full-time class schedule in 2005 due to loss of accreditation. The Board of Trustees has been enlarged and continues to arrange activities to maintain its non-profit status. Students and instructors who remained on campus have continued to use the campus for classes, gatherings, and ceremonies, with annual powwows held through 2013.


The school was named by founders as Deganawidah-Quetzalcoatl University, after two great Native American leaders of the period before European contact, one from New York and one from Mexico.[1] According to Iroquois leaders, use of the spelled-out name of the university can be offensive because the first part of the name should be used only in an appropriate spiritual context. Therefore, it is usually referred to as D–Q University to avoid offense. Iroquois tribal members, in certain circumstances, may use the full name.


At a time of rising American Indian activism, the college was founded to provide alternative ideas and methods of education to Native American and Latino students. Among its goals were to preserve and strengthen traditional Native American values, practice and protect Native American religion and beliefs, establish a Native American Research Institute, develop field-based systems to provide education to Native Americans who could not attend classes at the campus, and maintain social and personal support systems for D-Q students and staff.


Founded in 1971, D-Q was the only college in California founded by and for Native Americans. The school was one of the first six tribal colleges and universities in the United States, all of which were founded between 1968 and 1972. It was the only one that was independent of a reservation. Those six colleges created the American Indian Higher Education Consortium in 1972. In the 21st century, the U.S. Department of Education recognizes 34 tribal colleges, the majority of which are two-year institutions located on reservations. They now enroll more than 30,000 students, and some institutions have formal agreements with four-year universities to enable students to pursue BA degrees.[1]

The site of D-Q was previously used as a United States Army communications facility.[2] known at various times as the Sacramento Valley Radio Transmitting Station; West Coast Relay and Transmitter Station; U.S. Army West Coast Relay and Radio Transmitting Station; and the U.S. Army Strategic Communications Command - CONUS, Davis California, Facility. The site was also used at one time by the Department of the Army, Signal Corps, to support the Signal Corps Radio Station WVY.

A group of Native American academics, including David Risling, Jack D. Forbes, Carl Gorman, Kenneth Martin, and Sarah Hutchison, all of whom were involved in the Native American Studies Department at UC Davis,[3] created a Board of Trustees to apply for use of the site after the federal government decommissioned the site for military use. The University of California had also applied to use the site: for its new Native American Studies program, established in 1969, and a primate research lab. Organizers protested and UC Davis withdrew its application. The federal government conditionally granted the land to D–Q University in 1971.[4]

The school opened in 1971, founded to serve both Native American and Latino students. It obtained accreditation in 1977. Most tribal colleges are affiliated with one federally recognized tribe and are generally located on reservations. Organizers of the college were drawn from Native American activists, many of whom were members of federally recognized tribes in California. They struggled to attract funding and faculty to set up and operate the college, at a time when mainstream universities were also recruiting Native Americans to new programs of studies.

Loss of accreditation, 2005[edit]

With competition from the growth of Native American programs at other universities, as well as numerous tribal colleges, in the early 21st century D-Q suffered declining enrollment, a high rate of board of trustee turnover, and problems with funding. In 2003-2004, it lost funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs because of insufficient Native American enrollment as well as money from the Department of Education.[5] It lost its accreditation in 2005 and stopped offering classes.[2][5] Disputes among the board of trustees were settled following a lawsuit. The university re-opened for some activities later that year, but the board dismissed the president in June 2006 due to continued lack of students and funds.

Elders and teachers continued to occupy the University grounds through much of 2008, despite Board and police pressures to vacate the land.[2][6][7] During several instances in 2008, students and supporters were arrested for occupying the grounds.[2] The school's community continued to host community events, such as powwows.[8]

D–Q University in September 2010, in conjunction with the Regenerative Design Institute hosted a Permaculture Design Course,[9][10][11] Native Americans and non-Natives collaborated on site development proposals for the campus.[12]

Annual powwows have been held through 2013, with representation from tribes across California, as well as from other parts of the United States and other nations. As of 2015, the Board of trustees has been enlarged from four to 14 members (recruitment continues for four positions), increasing the number with professional backgrounds. Members represent numerous tribes in California as well as people from outside the state. Among the committees formed is one for curriculum, with a broad-based effort to assess current needs of Native Americans in California.[13] The Board has arranged for seminars and other activities to retain the university's non-profit status, while working to improve its infrastructure and build a network of support in 2015 to re-open. In 2012 the Board signed a memorandum of agreement with the Inter-Tribal Council of California toward this goal.[13]

Representation in other media[edit]

In the early 1990s, D-Q University was to be the subject of a feature-length documentary film, A Free People, Free To Choose.[14] Jan Crull, Jr., the filmmaker, was interested in the college's history. He stopped the project when Morrison & Foerster, a law firm closely linked to D-Q U's legal battles, withdrew after some of the film's subjects became involved in mutual lawsuits. He had already shot more than 100 hours of footage, including interviews with founders and activists David Risling and Jack D. Forbes.[14]


  1. ^ a b Hindery, Robin. "California's only tribal college close to collapse after 35 years", North County Times, 13 Aug 2006 (retrieved 30 Aug 2009)
  2. ^ a b c d "Police Raid D-Q University: Eighteen Students, Elders and Supporters Arrested.". Indybay: Central Valley. 2 April 2008. Retrieved 30 Aug 2009. 
  3. ^ "Davis: Departments - N". University of California History, Digital Archives. 18 June 2004. 
  4. ^ Johnson, Troy R.; Nagel, Joane; Champagne, Duane (1997). American Indian Activism: Alcatraz to the Longest Walk. University of Illinois. pp. 134–135. ISBN 9780252066535. 
  5. ^ a b "D-Q University Loses Accreditation, Funding", Tribal College/ Journal of American Indian Education, 15 May 2005
  6. ^ Valdata, Patricia (April 20, 2006). "The rebirth of D-Q University: determined to keep the dream alive, interim president Arthur Apodaca seeks to re-energize California's only two-year tribal college". Diverse Issues in Higher Education. 
  7. ^ Santillan, Guambry (March 31, 2008). "D-Q University Update: Arrests of Students and Elders". MEChA. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  8. ^ Norrell, Brenda. "DQ University Pow Wow: 39 Years Deed Day.". Censored News, Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights News. Retrieved 30 Aug 2009. 
  9. ^ Permaculture and Peacemaking.
  10. ^ Peacemaking and Permaculture - Permaculture Design Certification Intensive
  11. ^ The Aggie: Learn about sustainable living and peacemaking at D-Q University
  12. ^ "Permaculture Design Certification Courses". Regenerative Design Institute. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  13. ^ a b Patty Talahongva, "California Indians Seek to Establish a TCU", Tribal College, 2 May 2015 accessed 12 May 2015
  14. ^ a b W.G.A.W. reg. No. 513853; an overview of the film project was presented and discussed at the D-Q U Board of Trustees' semiannual meeting on October 2, 1993. Distribution interest was in place before any footage was shot; in the 100 plus hours shot and assembled are lengthy interviews with David Risling and Jack D. Forbes.

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