After two years of planning, Western Carolina University’s Native American sorority made its appearance this semester. Alpha Pi Omega Sorority Inc., known as the oldest Native American sorority in the United States, has finally taken its place on-campus this fall.
“I with the help of many others have been trying to bring a chapter of Alpha Pi Omega Sorority Inc. to this campus for a few years now and to finally be able to say that we have is a huge accomplishment in itself. Being a founding member only makes this experience even more special than it already is,” said Patience Owl.
Owl is a senior at WCU, and she is now the President for Alpha Pi Omega Sorority Inc. She would like to conduct some outreach programs for native students in the surrounding school systems in an effort to get them more interested in pursuing a higher education.
“I have already talked to a few seniors from Swain High School and they were shocked to find out how big the Native population was on Western’s campus. There is very limited knowledge of how supportive and encouraging this university was to Native issues and people. When they found out exactly how great the support was at WCU it really made a huge impact on them and the idea of going to college became easier to think about,” Owl said proudly.
The WCU chapter of Alpha Pi Omega Sorority Inc. is made up of six young founding ladies: Candice Craig, affiliated with Creek and Seminole tribes; Meghann Locklear, Lumbee Tribe; Timmie Locklear, Lumbee Tribe; Kelly Driver and Owl, members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians; and Kayla Skitzki.
” I am so honored and proud to be a founding member of Alpha Pi Omega … there are so many goals I want to accomplish. First would be the respect my sisters as myself, become closer to God, and to complete more community service,” said Timmie Locklear.
Craig, a senior psychology major graduating in May and is now activities coordinator for Alpha Pi Omega Sorority Inc., says she joined the sorority because of the “unique values” that parallel with the pride she carries as a Native American of modern times. Also, she explains that “the network the Sisterhood forms is strong and supportive of its individual members.”
Craig hopes the Alpha Pi girls will impact the campus.
“The Alpha Pi Omega women will be a leader, collaborator and initiator in all things related to Native American advocacy,” said Craig. “Having Alpha Pi Omega on campus shows that WCU welcomes equal opportunity, diversity and respect for Indigenous rights.”
In its 16 year history, Alpha Pi Omega differs from other Greeks because it has never been reprimanded and charged with University fines according to the headquarters’ official website.
“The Sorority’s founding principles are rooted deeply in Native American tradition, culture, spirituality and concern for contemporary issues among Native People. Membership is still very exclusive; fewer than 400 women have successfully completed the initiation process in 16 years.”
The sorority was first formed at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill representing more than 70 tribe’s nationwide and 13-chartered chapters.
“At WCU, Alpha Pi Omega Sorority Inc. would like to raise awareness of the historical roots which every American shares with this nations first people and appreciation of its survival,” said Craig.
“Education is power that no one can take from you,” she continued.
This year the sorority chose to support the National Indian Education Association as its permanent philanthropy. The National Indian Education Association is a membership-based organization committed to increasing educational opportunities and resources for American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian students while protecting their cultural and linguistic traditions,” according to the official website.