The OA (Order of the Arrow) is a special fellowship of honor campers, founded within the Boy Scouts of America in 1913, at Treasure Island, Pennsylvania. Its purpose is to recognize those Scouts, chosen by their troop, for membership. It is unique in that the members are not elected by those already in the OA, but by their own troops, to recognize them as honor campers and as those who are always eager to give cheerful service.
To be eligible for election, a Scout must be of First Class rank and have camped for at least 15 days and nights in the past two years, including six, but not more than six, at a Council or National long-term camp. He must then be approved by his Scoutmaster and be interested in becoming a member of the OA. Any number of Scouts in a troop can be eligible. An election is held in his troop, at which at least 50% of the troop is present. All eligible names appear on the ballot, and each Scout votes for ALL those he feels are suitable. A Scout is elected if his name appears on 50% of the ballots turned in. If a Scout does not feel he knows the candidates well enough to vote, he should not turn in a ballot, as a blank ballot is a vote against all.
Adults (male or female) may also be nominated, but not voted, for membership by the troop committee. Adults must also have the same 15 days and nights of camping and have skills of benefit to the OA. The primary responsibility of an adult in the OA is to support the boys in his or her own troop in their membership.
A Scout’s first responsibility is to his troop, and his OA membership should not interfere with his duties there. However, the OA provides unique opportunities to develop in his leadership skills and independence.
Once a Scout or adult is a candidate, their names are called out at a District event to let all know of their election. They then attend a Fellowship weekend known as “an Ordeal,” in either the fall or spring, taking part in a series of ceremonies and projects designed to make them aware of the remarkable growth available within the OA. Following the weekend, they become an Ordeal member of a special organization called the Passaconaway Lodge. In ten months, the new Ordeal members are eligible to step up their membership to a higher level called the Brotherhood, a lifelong commitment to the traditions of the Order of the Arrow. There is yet a third level of membership called the Vigil Honor, which is bestowed, not earned, on those exceptional members who have gone over and above the responsibilities of their position and service to the OA. At each level, the OA member receives a special patch to wear on his or her uniform’s pocket flap and a unique white sash with a red arrow to designate the level of membership.
Although the OA is NOT a secret organization, candidates learn of the customs through a series of ceremonies and events at their Ordeal. As it is more meaningful to experience the weekend gradually, details of the Ordeal are not revealed prior to the weekend. Parents will not be refused information if they seek it, but the ceremonies are not generally open to non-OA members.
Upon successful completion of the Ordeal, the Scout becomes an Arrowman and belongs to a local group called a Chapter. The Chapter meets regularly, usually once a month, for boy-led programs of fun, learning and service. The two Fellowship weekends (Ordeals), in addition to providing an opportunity for camping and fun with the rest of the OA, also provide service to our Council camps. In addition, there is a Winter Fun weekend in January which includes indoor camping, fellowship, skiing, electronic games and board games plus a Fall Conference with various workshops and competitions.
Within the Chapter and the Lodge, there are ample opportunities for growth and leadership. Each Chapter has a Native American Dance Team, a Ceremonies Team and an Induction Enrichment Team (elections), which travel to local troops, packs and other organizations performing and serving them, as we are an organization of cheerful service. The Native American theme is carried out with respect for local tribal traditions, and our Scouts learn those cultures as they make Indian regalia (clothing) and learn appropriate dances and ceremonies.
In the Arrowhead District, our chapter is called the Arrowhead Chapter, with our chapter chief being elected in May of each year. Our chapter advisor is Jay Cohen of Troop 22. For further information, please contact Jay at 345-0300 or [email protected] and;he’ll put you in contact with the chief.