The Order of the Arrow is Scouting's National Honor Society.
The purpose of the Order of the Arrow is fourfold:
- To recognize those Scout campers who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives
- To develop and maintain camping traditions and spirit
- To promote Scout camping
- To crystallize the Scout habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of leadership in cheerful service to others
The Order of the Arrow (OA) was founded by Dr. E. Urner Goodman and Carroll A. Edson in 1915 at the Treasure Island Camp of the Philadelphia Council, Boy Scouts of America. It became an official program experiment in 1922 and was approved as part of the Scouting program in 1934.
In 1948 the OA, recognized as the BSA's national brotherhood of honor campers, became an official part of the national camping program of the Boy Scouts of America.
The OA has more than 176,000 members located in lodges affiliated with approximately 327 BSA local councils.
Scouts are elected to the Order by their fellow unit members, following approval by the Scoutmaster or Varsity team Coach. Once elected, a scout is considered a candidate until he completes the Ordeal. To become a member, a youth must be a registered member of a Boy Scout troop or Varsity Scout team and hold First Class rank. The youth must have experienced fifteen days and nights of Boy Scout camping during the two-year period prior to the election. The fifteen days and nights must include one, but no more than one, long-term camp consisting of six consecutive days and five nights of resident camping, approved and under the auspices and standards of the Boy Scouts of America. The balance of the camping must be overnight, weekend, or other short-term camps.
Adult selection is based on their ability to perform the necessary functions to help the Order fulfill its purpose, and is not for recognition. Selected adult Scouters must be an asset to the Order because of demonstrated abilities, and provide a positive role model for the youth members of the lodge.
The induction ceremony, called the Ordeal, is the first step toward full membership. During the experience, candidates maintain silence, receive small amounts of food, work on camp improvement projects, and are required to sleep alone, apart from other campers. The entire experience is designed to teach significant values.
The Order of the Arrow is a youth run organization with all officers being under the age of 21. Scouts may become leaders at the chapter (usually a few cities), Lodge (a whole council), Section (in our case, south-east Michigan), Region (the whole midwest), or National level. All decisions are made by the youth and their elected leaders. They put together the plans and carry out the programs.
At every step of the way, they have adult advisers. In the OA, adults are not leaders, they're advisers. They help the scouts make good decisions and respect their wishes unless there are safety or legal concerns with their planned activiites. Most advisers in the Order of the Arrow are experienced scout leaders. Not every adult who would like to be a member of the Order is invited; we take only those we think will help the youth.
Native American Connections
One of our longest standing traditions is our use of Native American culture in our ceremonies and activities. We do this out of respect and because scouts find it interesting and exciting. We take great pains not to disrespect Native Americans and are proud to say that we have assistance of many Native Americans who are not members but appreciate what we are doing.
The Order of the Arrow is not a secret organization - we are the Honor Society of the BSA We don't tell the scouts exactly what they're getting into for their Ordeal. We don't tell them about our ceremonies or anything else. We do this to help make sure membership is a privilege.
At the same time, we recognize that you have a right to know what your son is doing. The details of all our ceremonies are open to any parent who would like to know them. If you'd like, we can even arrange for you to attend your son's induction, even if you aren't a member yourself.
The mystique of the program is meant to make it exciting to youth while complying with the regulations of the BSA.
Every organization has a structure to help keep things organized an on track. Just as your son's troop has patrols and is part of a council, the various parts of the Order of the Arrow are organized in a clear structure.
Chapters: Our Lodge is organized into five chapters each of which serves one or more districts. Most of the activities your son attends will be with his chapter.
Lodge: One step up from the chapter is the Lodge. A lodge serves a single council, in our case the Detroit Area Council. Most of the camping events your son attends will be Lodge events.
Section: A section is made up of several lodges. Our Lodge is part of Section C2A which serves southeast Michigan. The Section usually has one camping event annually.
Regions: There are four regions; our Lodge is part of the Central Region.
National: At the national level, there are two youth officers, the Chief and Vice-Chief. The Order of the Arrow is unique to the Boy Scouts of America.