Yesterday Alpha Pi Omega Sorority, Inc., the nation’s oldest Native American Greek Letter Organization celebrated 20 phenomenal years of sisterhood. I was away from my computer yesterday, so I was unable to write about everything my sisterhood means to me nearly 5 years after my initiation.
I will never forget my first introduction to APiO. It was the week prior to my first semester at Carolina. I was wandering about the Pre-O Expo taking in all of the different ways I could get involved on campus. As shy as I was at the time, I didn’t speak to many of the upperclassmen that were manning the tables and chose to just glance at the display boards in passing. In the process of deciding whether or not I wanted to sign for some listserv or another, I heard somebody yell, “Oh my gosh! You’re the Lakota!” The next thing I knew, a young lady who would come to be my big and one of my closest friends grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the sorority’s table. I couldn’t get away fast enough.
One thing you have to understand about me, having grown up in small-town South Dakota my perceptions of Greek Life were framed entirely around stereotypes and media depictions. As far as I knew, all sororities were just an overpriced excuse to wear cocktail dresses, flirt with bros, and drink bad beer at mixers. I had no knowledge of NPHC or MGC organizations and assumed that there was no place for Greek Life in my life. A couple of weeks later, a few friends convinced me to attend a program Carolina calls Meet the Greeks. That’s when things for me started to change.
Over the course of that school year, I attended various programs hosted or co-hosted by various Greek organizations and interacted with upperclassmen through my involvement in different student organizations. A number of times I was asked the ever-annoying, “So, what are you?” and “But what do you claim?” At the end of my first year of college, I had made my decision. Unfortunately, I had to wait until the fall of junior year before I had the opportunity to go through the Honey Process (long story), but the wait only made me want and cherish it more.
Now, there are people that assume that I chose my organization because I picked being Native over being Black. They would be incorrect. There are many reasons that Alpha Pi Omega became the clear choice for me, but my choosing one identity over another was not one of them. In fact, that sisters never asked me to choose and accepted me for every identity I inhabit is part of what drew me in. The organization’s mission includes serving as a support to ALL college women, not just those that identify as Native.
From time to time, you will hear people say that sororities are just paying for friendship. For me, nothing could be further from the truth. I considered members of our organization close friends of mine long before I had the opportunity to join. They were the ones I spent my weekends with, ate meals with, studied with, laughed and cried with, and crashed with during the summers I didn’t want to go back to South Dakota. The women in my organization are women that inspire me to be a better woman every day. They understand what it means to have an indescribable connection to a place that can be so strong that not being there can cause feelings of guilt. They understand the importance of tradition, spirituality, and education. They understand that “community over self” is a way of life.
This year marks 20 years for our sisterhood, 5 years in my life as a sister, and 3 years since I moved away from my undergraduate chapter. My connection to and love for my sisters has only grown stronger every day. I carry my organization in my heart and know for a fact that I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. My sisters are truly sisters to me, in every aspect of the term.
To my sisters around the country: I admire you. I cherish you. I love you to the moon and back. I am so honored and humbled to be able to call you mine.