U of Arizona Approves Formation of Its First American Indian Fraternity
The University of Arizona formally approved the first American Indian fraternity in the school’s history. The five-member fraternity, Beta Sigma Epsilon, is dedicated to improving low enrollment and retention rates for American Indian males, says chapter president Nathan Pryor.
In addition to being the first group of its kind on the university’s campus, members say it’s the first all-Indian fraternity in the country designed to expand to other campuses.
Pryor and co-founder Eric Riggs say the fraternity isn’t about student socialization, but rather will focus on helping to get Indians into college and to keep them there.
“We want to get the message out to young people that not only do they empower themselves, but they empower their people as well when they pursue careers in higher education,” says Pryor, a junior majoring in regional development.
The fraternity recently conducted a survey to find out what American Indian students at the University of Arizona thought about an all-Indian fraternity. Some didn’t like it at all.
“We had a number of them come back saying we were trying to be like White people or perpetuating the colonization of our people,” Pryor says.
“I think in any area, with something very new and something that is very similar to mainstream culture, it’s always going to have its critics,” says Karen Francis-Begay, director of UA Native American Student Affairs. “Unfortunately, the worst critics are going to be our own people and our own community.”
Pryor says American Indian fraternities exist at a few East Coast schools but that none has taken on the traditional fraternity structure of founding an “alpha” chapter and branching out to other schools.
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