Tribal tattoos, as the name implies, originated among Native American tribes and date back to over 5,000 years. Perhaps they are so prevalent among fraternity brothers due to the fact that the tattoos were originally applied to show loyalty to a particular tribe in native lands.
Later on, tattoos were used to create scenes on the body depicting battles the tribe member took place in. They were also used as memorials for loved ones who had passed away, their memory honored in the form of a soaring eagle.
Tattoos were certainly not limited to Native Americans, however. The Yokuts of California used body modification to call attention to the location of a person's supernatural power; the indigenous tribes of New Zealand, Africa, Central America and Hawaii also practiced the art of tattooing.