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Carol Falcon Chandler

Carole Falcon-Chandler (Bitéθaaʔ-Dancing Woman) was born January 23, 1939, to George and Mae (DeCelles) Falcon. Born and raised at Fort Belknap Agency, Carole was the youngest of three children, following her brother, Ron, and sister, Carmen Jean. Their parents both worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs – George as a maintenance man and Mae as a secretary. When Carole was eight years old, her mother died, and Carole was raised by her father with help from her aunts (Theresa Decelles-Delorme and Carmen Falcon) and grandparents (August and Nancy Decelles).

After graduating from Harlem High School, Carole enrolled in the "commercial" program at Haskell Institute (now Haskell Indian Nations University) to study secretarial skills. In 1958, she earned her A.A.S. degree in Business (with Honors). Along with seven fellow Haskell graduates, she entered the BIA's Indian relocation program and moved to Oakland, California, where she held several jobs in the Bay Area working as a secretary. Eventually, she worked her way up to the position of Executive Assistant and Director of Protocol for the Chief of Staff and Commanding General at Oakland Army Base.

It was during her time in Oakland that Carole married Al Chandler (ʔíístʔuhúhkʔi -Good Strike). Although Al, too, grew up on Fort Belknap, the two did not meet until they crossed paths at Flandreau Indian Boarding School, where Carole attended her first year of high school. When they unexpectedly re-connected in the Bay Area, where Al was serving in the Air Force, they started dating and eventually married. During their years in the Bay Area, Carole worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Army, while Al launched a long and successful career with the Xerox Corporation. It was also during this time that their three children, Scott, Dawn, and Sean, were born. The family made their home in the town of San Leandro.

In 1971, Al was granted a transfer from Xerox, and the family moved to Glendive, Montana. It was here that Carole started her career in higher education, working as a tutor and counselor for American Indian students and, later, as the project director for the Student Support Services (TRIO) Program at Dawson Community College. During her 17 years in Glendive, Carole mentored the college's few Indian students, while becoming a fierce student advocate and raising awareness about Indian issues in the local community.

When the family relocated to Billings in 1988, Carole, with Al's full support, made the life-changing decision to go back to college – just four months shy of her 50th birthday! Three years later, she graduated from Eastern Montana College (now Montana State University-Billings) with a B.S. degree in Human Services.

With degree in hand, Carole and Al moved back home to Harlem in 1992 when Al retired from Xerox. Carole was hired as the Dean of Students at Aaniiih Nakoda College (then Fort Belknap College), which at that time was less than ten years old and still in candidacy status for accreditation. When Carole arrived at work, she discovered that her office in the college's "Administrative Trailer" was located on the exact site of the house where she grew up in the 1940s and 1950s. For Carole, her work at ANC was a "homecoming" in the most literal sense of the term – returning to the very spot of her childhood home.

For the next eight years, Carole served as a champion for her students and continued to develop her keen leadership skills, while gradually assuming greater duties as a top administrator. When the college began searching for a new president in 1999, Carole, at the urging of numerous colleagues and community members, decided to apply for the position. In January 2000, the Fort Belknap College Board of Directors hired Carole as the college's new president.

Carole held the position of college president for more than 20 years prior to her retirement on September 30, 2020. During those 20 years, Carole had an incredible impact on the college, and it is impossible to overstate the legacy she leaves behind. She may not have been the founder, but she nurtured the young college as it navigated some serious growing pains, established its identity, and grew into adulthood.

As president of ANC, Carole compiled a long list of achievements – a list far too long to include here. She established long-term financial stability at the college, expanded campus facilities through the construction of five new buildings, increased the number of American Indian instructors teaching at the college, and created a professional development program that helped dozens of college staff and faculty earn advanced degrees. Most importantly, ANC awarded certificates and degrees to more than 600 graduates during her tenure as president.

Many of Carole's greatest accomplishments at ANC focused on a common theme: her unwavering commitment to uphold the college's mission of "maintaining and revitalizing the indigenous lifeways of the Aaniinen and Nakoda nations." For example, in 2002, Carole and her son, Sean (Níiθʔuwʔɔ́ɔkʔi -Two Capture), teamed up to establish the college's American Indian Studies Department. Then, in 2003, Carole, along with Sean and his wife, Dr. Lynette (Stein) Chandler (Bitéθaaʔ), established the White Clay Language Immersion School, which was the first full-day Native language immersion school in the nation housed on a tribal college campus. Under Carole's leadership, Fort Belknap College changed its name to Aaniiih Nakoda College during a historic ceremony in September 2011. The current name not only recognizes the two tribal nations the college serves but marks an important step in celebrating tribal identity and embracing educational self-determination.

Carole's lasting mark on ANC can also be seen in several significant additions to the college's curriculum offerings. In 2016, Carole spearheaded the establishment of ANC's Associate of Science in Nursing-Registered Nursing program. Based on the Medicine Wheel paradigm, the nationally accredited "Grow Our Own" nursing program trains local nurses to provide culturally safe health care for residents of Fort Belknap and communities across Montana's Hi-Line. Then, in 2020, Carole presided over the establishment of ANC's first bachelor's degree program – a B.S. degree in Aaniiih Nakoda Ecology. This place-based, indigenous ecology program prepares graduates to become responsible caretakers and stewards of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and surrounding ancestral homelands.

These accomplishments directly express Carole's vision of high quality, culturally grounded postsecondary education for - and by - the Aaniinen and Nakoda nations of Fort Belknap. In recognition of her achievements, Carole was awarded an honorary doctorate in education from Montana State University for "her outstanding leadership at Fort Belknap College, her contribution to tribal colleges, and her efforts to preserve the Aaniiih language." In 2009, she was also recognized as the Tribal College Leader of the Year by the American Indian College Fund (AICF). She served on the AICF Board of Trustees (including terms as President and Vice President), the Montana State University Council of Elders, the Executive Board of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), the American Council on Education's Commission on Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Equity, and the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Carole's accomplishments only tell part of the story of what made her such a great leader. They do not convey the profound personal impact she had on the lives of her colleagues, staff, and students. Those impacts and that legacy of compassion, kindness, loyalty, and wisdom are the most important of all.

When Carole retired in 2020, she could rest assured that her vision for the college would be carried forward under the next president, her son, Dr. Sean Chandler. One of Carole's greatest gifts to ANC and the people of Fort Belknap was the foresight she showed in preparing future leaders like Sean. With this legacy firmly in place, she positioned the college for long-term success that will last far beyond her two-decade tenure as president. In retirement, Carole enjoyed her final years in Harlem surrounded by family and friends. She is survived by her husband, Al; children, Scott, Dawn and Sean; adopted son, Ferlin Clark (NM); adopted sister, Elaine (Charles) McLaughlin (ND); grandchildren, Hayes, Hunter, Roam, Wozek, and Serena; and great grandchildren, Blaze and Ember. She was preceded in death by her parents, George and May (Decelles) Falcon; siblings, Ron and Carmen Jean; adopted mother, Regina Brave Bull; and daughter in law, Lynette Chandler.

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