The country’s oldest Indigenous sorority — Alpha Pi Omega (APiO) — will be turning 28 years old on Sep. 1 in remembrance of Founder’s Day. The sorority founded its first chapter, UNC's Alpha chapter, in 1994, and has had members from more than 130 tribes over the years and has 24 chapters chartered nationwide.
APiO was founded by four women representing the Lumbee and Coharie tribes, known in the organization as the Four Winds: Jamie Goins, Shannon Brayboy, Christina Strickland and Amy Locklear.
Hayley Jacobs, a senior and the current president of UNC’s chapter, said APiO's mission is to support Indigenous women throughout both college and life.
“It’s so important to have an Indigenous sorority on campus because we are the minority of the minority,” Jacobs said in an email statement. “Sometimes that means we may need a little more support.”
Senior Mikayah Locklear, who serves as the organization’s vice-president, treasurer and historian, said her favorite memory is the night she officially became a member of APiO, a group she feels is now a part of her identity.
Jacobs said her involvement with the sorority does not end after graduation, as she plans on joining one of APiO’s regional professional chapters.
“We want to make sure those girls are still feeling included in the events in years to come — not just when they’re in college because our goal is to support them throughout their lives and not just in college,” Jacobs said.
The sorority’s motto is “My sister as myself,” and APiO has expanded its chapters to other institutions such as Oklahoma State University.
Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton, who attended OSU and serves as the Grand Public Relations Director for APiO, said she has been in the role since 2006, and it meant the world to her when there were other women who could empathize with her experiences.
The National Student Clearinghouse, who publishes reports on student pathways and enrollment trends, reported a 21.8 percent decrease in Native American students who enrolled in public four-year institutions in 2020.
“Having a culturally sensitive community, such as Alpha Pi Omega, in place on campus helps provide a sense of belonging, thus fostering an extra tie and an extra reason for an Indigenous student to push for a way to stay if the going gets tough,” Krehbiel-Burton said in an email.
Since APiO's establishment at UNC in 1994, the sorority has chartered 14 undergraduate and 10 professional chapters around the country.
Locklear said that since she joined the sorority as part of the "Benevolent Beams of Balance" — the official name of the group of women who joined the sorority in the spring 2022 semester — it has provided her comfort, strength, knowledge and other skills.
“This past summer, I was able to attend our Grand Gathering in Minnesota and be surrounded by so many sisters who came before me,” she said. “Being in that moment and conducting business was an honor and an opportunity to develop skills for that setting.”
Victoria Chavis, an UNC alumna and APiO’s current student organizer advisor, said she helps with the organization’s event planning, grade verification and venue reservations.
“I just really appreciate the mission of the sorority being to create a support and be a support for American Indian women in higher ed,” Chavis said. "As a sister, when I came back to work here — I started back working here in 2017 — it just felt like a natural fit."
Locklear shared this sentiment and said she finally felt at home once she had joined the sorority.
“Being on a PWI can be extremely challenging and trying to find your place where you feel at home. It was even harder for me coming from a rural, tribal community,” she said.
The Alpha chapter at UNC was named APiO's Undergraduate Chapter of the Year in 2022.
Alpha Pi Omega will soon be posting notices for their interest meetings for the semester on HeelLife and Instagram for students interested in joining the organization.
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