North Idaho College was first known as Coeur d'Alene Junior College, a private school established in 1933 that operated for six years. In January 1939, the Idaho Legislature passed the Junior College Act, which permitted qualified areas to establish junior college districts by a vote of eligible electors. Coeur d'Alene Junior College became North Idaho Junior College in June of 1939. On July 31, 1971, the college changed its name to North Idaho College.
North Idaho College sits on land that has a rich history. From the time when the Coeur d'Alene Tribe used these lands as a gathering place, through the U.S. Army's use of the pristine land for a fort, to the current use as an educational facility, this special place on the shores of Lake Coeur d'Alene has been a focal point for the North Idaho region and the Pacific Northwest.
For untold centuries, the people of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe gathered to hunt, fish, play games, dance, feast and swim in the area where Lake Coeur d'Alene feeds the Spokane River. Hnya'(pqi'nn (pronounced "hin-yap-keehn-un"), or the "gathering place," saw much activity by the Coeur d'Alene people, who were known as peaceful and diplomatic.
The tradition, lifestyle and activities of the Coeur d'Alene people were interrupted upon the arrival of the white man and the establishment of Camp Coeur d'Alene in 1878, later known as Fort Sherman, by the 45th Congress of the U.S. The tribal members were driven from their gathering place to a reservation near the southern tip of Lake Coeur d'Alene.
Over the years, Fort Sherman flourished and brought development to the community, including a hospital, library, school, chapel and amusement hall. The town of Coeur d'Alene grew along with the fort, sharing many amenities, while the people of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe kept to themselves on the reservation.
In 1900, Fort Sherman was abandoned. Coeur d'Alene's economy and population continued to grow and the need for higher education soon became evident. It wasn't until the area began to emerge from the Great Depression that the dream of higher education became a reality.
The roots of NIC began during the Great Depression. Moritz Brakemeyer was the local proponent of the idea of a community college and was backed by the support of community members and organizations. He became the first president of Coeur d'Alene Junior College, which was organized on Aug. 10, 1933, as a public junior college and housed on the third floor of the City Hall. Enrollment for the first year was 55 students, and on June 1, 1934, five students received diplomas.
In 1939, the Idaho Legislature passed a bill establishing the organization and funding for junior colleges. Kootenai County taxpayers enthusiastically endorsed North Idaho Junior College, which became the new name, as well as created property taxes as a means of funding.
In 1949, the college moved onto the land where the Coeur d'Alene Indians used to gather, hunt, fish, dance and feast. The former site of Fort Sherman was donated to the college by the Winton family.
In 1971, the college name changed from North Idaho Junior College to North Idaho College.
In 1997, North Idaho College and the Coeur d'Alene Tribe joined hands to formulate the Nine-Point Agreement, which honors the Coeur d'Alene Tribe and identifies ways to support Native American students and cultural programming on the college campus. The history of Yap-Keehn-Um comes full circle as North Idaho College and the Coeur d'Alene Tribe respect and honor the history of this land.
North Idaho College has become not only the educational center of North Idaho but remains a gathering place for all people.
NIC celebrated its 75th birthday throughout the 2008-2009 academic year with a variety of events that honored and commemorated NIC's long history and the role it has played in our region.
As part of the celebration, the book “The Gathering Place: A History of North Idaho College” was released by author and NIC Instructor Fran Bahr.
NIC’s Molstead Library Digital Collection has an extensive archive of historical material from the college’s history.