Mulberry District Resource Website

Achtu Chapter
Leader Knots
About the OA
OA Calendar
Pinewood Derby
The next district meetings will be Jan. 8, 2009. OA 6:00, Roundtable 6:30, and Committee around 7:30 to 8:00

About The Order of the Arrow

The Order of the Arrow (OA), or Wimachtendienk, Wingolauchsik, Witahemui (WWW) (Lenape for Brotherhood of Cheerful Service) is an official program of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). It is the BSA's National honorary society for experienced campers, based on Native American traditions, and dedicated to the ideal of cheerful service. Members of the OA are called Arrowmen.

The OA was founded in 1915 at a Scout camp on Treasure Island, on the Delaware River near Philadelphia. The two men most involved in its creation were camp director Dr. E. Urner Goodman, and his assistant Carroll A. Edson. It had come to their attention that many other camps had created honor societies for Scouts who had attended them. They were also inspired by the use of Native American culture by Ernest Thompson Seton in his Woodcraft Indians program. They decided to create one of their own, and to base it on the traditions and legends of the local Lenni Lenape (Delaware) Indians; the name Brotherhood of Cheerful Service, and many of the OA's ceremonies are thus derived from Delaware tradition.

Numerous other camp honor societies existed at some point during the BSA's history. Some faded into history. Some are still active today. Others eventually became Order of the Arrow lodges. Among the more widespread of these societies are the Tribe of Mic-O-Say, Firecrafter, Nani-Ba-Zhu, Tribe of Quivira, Ku-Ni-Eh, PGT, The Buckskin Sons of Wauwepex, and The Clan of the Mystic Oak.

Two councils today do not have an OA Lodge. The Long Beach Council in California instead has the Tribe of Tahquitz. The Pony Express Council in Missouri has the Tribe of Mic-O-Say.


The stated purposes of the Order of the Arrow are:

# 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, and

# To crystallize the Scout habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of leadership in cheerful service to others.

The basic unit of the order is the lodge, which is chartered to a council. The head of a lodge is the Lodge Chief, a young man under the age of 21, with a Lodge Adviser, an adult tasked with guiding the chief and the lodge in general. Many lodges are further divided into chapters, which generally correspond to a district in the council. OA activities, primarily meetings and service projects, are usually organized by the chapters.

A group of 2 - 10 lodges are grouped into what is known as a section, the primary purpose of which is to organize an annual weekend campout known as a conclave which combines training performed for the membership of the lodges and inter-lodge competition, including sporting competitions. The sections are subdivisions of BSA areas, which are then grouped into one of four regions: Northeast, Southern, Central, and Western. Each level annually elects youth (under 21) leadership, in the form of Section, Region, and National Chiefs. Nationally, the order is headed by the National Order of the Arrow Committee, of which the National Chief, National Vice-chief, and each Region Chief (added recently) are voting members, which is a subcommittee of the BSA's Boy Scouting Committee.

Membership in the Order of the Arrow totals over 180,000 youth and adult members, roughly one eighth the number of those involved in the Boy Scout program. Since members are elected by their local unit, and since most of the members of their unit are generally not members of the Order of the Arrow, the Order is said to be the largest membership organization whose members are elected primarily by non-members.

Inductees to the Order must first be elected by a majority vote of their fellow Scouts (including non-members) in their troop or team. Any Scout who has reached the rank of First Class, has fulfilled camping requirements, and has been approved by his Scoutmaster is eligible for election. The next step is the calling-out, typically performed by a Order member dressed in ceremonial Indian clothes. This usually occurs sometime prior to the next inductions weekend, and may be done at summer camp, a district camping event called a Camporee, or even at a troop meeting.

The two types of members are Youth and Advisers. The distinction is important in that Youth are voting members and serve in the Lodge, Section, Region, and National elected offices while Advisers are appointed to their positions and are non-voting members. Youth are members under 21 elected by their troop. Adults can become members by being nominated by the committee members of the troop and then approved by the lodge Adult Selection Committee. If an adult in the troop (due to the difference that adults in a troop are 18 and over) is not yet 21 they must be elected by the boys as a Youth member. Advisers (that were not Youth members) are nominated from in their troop, or, if appropriate, by the district or council. Youth and advisers undergo the same induction ceremonies and principles.

The first level of membership is called Ordeal membership and is where the member officially becomes part of the Order through the Ordeal experience. Conducted at a Scout camp or other wooded location, Ordeal candidates undertake tests which are designed to test the candidate's devotion to the core principles of the Order. It should be noted that some members feel that the experience of taking the Ordeal is somewhat cheapened if the tests are known in advance; however, this information is in no sense secret.

Brotherhood, Vigil
After a minimum of 10 months, during which the member becomes active in the Order, a member is eligible to go through another ceremony, where the member seals his membership in the Order and is advanced to the second level of Brotherhood membership. Two years after completing the Brotherhood, a member having demonstrated exemplary service to their Lodge, the Order of the Arrow, and to Scouting may be selected for the Vigil Honor. A Lodge may select only at most one Vigil candidate per every 50 registered active members, and a majority of those inducted must be under the age of 21. The members are advanced to the Vigil Honor after completing the Vigil.

Most lodges hold several annual events, often at camps belonging to the local Boy Scout council, for the purpose of fellowship, inducting new members, and service work to improve the council camp. Annually, members of lodges who are grouped into a section (an administrative grouping of anywhere from two to ten lodges) gather at a Section Conclave for fellowship, training, competition, and to elect Youth officers who run the Section. Once every two years, the National Order of the Arrow Conference (NOAC), a week-long event, is held on the campus of a major university.

For several years, the OA has sponsored special service groups to the three National High Adventure Bases. This started with the OA Trail Crew at the Philmont Scout Ranch, which has worked to build new trails and repair old ones. Later this expanded to the Northern Tier High Adventure Bases with the OA Wilderness Voyage, which has repaired the portage trails in the Boundary Waters area. Most recently they have started the OA Ocean Adventure at the Florida High Adventure Sea Base, which works to repair reefs in the Florida Keys.

Since the 1950s, the OA has
fielded a Service Corps for the National Scout Jamboree. At recent Jamborees this has expanded with a major show and TOAP (The Outdoor Adventure Place).

Arrowmen are identified by a white sash, bearing a red arrow worn over their right shoulder. The Brotherhood sash consists of an arrow "enclosed" by two red bars, while the Vigil sash is the Brotherhood sash with a triangle going through the arrow shaft, the triangle bearing three small arrows going in a counterclockwise direction. They are also identified by special Order of the Arrow patches worn on the right pocket flap of their Boy Scout uniforms, called lodge flaps. Many of these patches are now quite collectible and are of special historical significance. Another form of identification is a small silver pin, suspended from a red and white ribbon, and attached from the button of the right pocket flap. Officially, the sash is worn only at official Order of the Arrow functions and when specifically representing the Order of the Arrow - such as when conducting an election of Order of the Arrow members for a Boy Scout troop. The flap patch and ribbon pin are worn on the uniform so long as the Scout or Scouter is a member of the Order of the Arrow.

The program has an official song/anthem, "Firm Bound in Brotherhood", which is sung to the tune of God Save the Tsar. The arrowmen traditionally sing it when gathered around in a circle and holding hands to symbolize a linked chain.

The Order of the Arrow has occasionally been classified as a secret society. This attitude stems from the Order of the Arrow's ceremonies as well as the closed nature of Order practices to non-members.

The Boy Scouts, and its adult leaders, maintain a strict opinion that the Order of the Arrow is not a secret society, as secret societies are forbidden by the policies of the Boy Scouts of America, as is the mention of anything 'secret' in nature. Although its ceremonies are safeguarded from non-members without a specific reason to know in order to preserve their impact on future candidates, any concerned person can read or view the ceremonies upon request, and all business meetings are open to non-members.

The Order of the Arrow has also been challenged for the methods in which it elects its members. On the level of the younger Boy Scouts, many Order of the Arrow elections are seen as little more than popularity contests between children, where the most popular scout in a troop will be elected to the OA, regardless of his attitudes towards scouting or his abilities in outdoor camping and scouting techniques. It has been said that this is most common in Boy Scout troops which operate out of the same neighborhood or school, in that a scout with a "circle of friends" will easily be elected to the Order of the Arrow based on friendship (or sometimes even intimidation) among other members of the troops.

In contrast to the younger OA elections, the adult Order of the Arrow elections seem much better run and impartial. Adults are not actually elected to the OA, they are nominated by their unit committee, district, or council. Each unit is allowed 1 adult nomination for every 50 youth in their unit. If there are no youth elected from that unit there can be no adult. There is a group consisting of the Lodge Adviser, Scout Executive, and Camping Committee Chairman (in most cases these are the three) that approve these nominations. Even so, in recent years the Order of the Arrow has been challenged in that any adult may become a member and the election process is merely a formality. Some have claimed this detracts from the standards of the Order of the Arrow making it more of a social club than an honor society. However, members must maintain registration in another branch of scouting.

Awards in the Order
Like many of the awards given to members of the BSA, the Order of the Arrow can bestow awards to its members for distinguished service. The highest, and oldest of these awards is the Distinguished Service Award. First awarded in 1940, the Distinguished Service Award is given to an Arrowman who has given dedicated, unselfish service at the National, Regional, and Sectional level. The Distinguished Service Award is presented every two years at the National Order of the Arrow Conference, and is one of the few awards in the BSA that can be given to any member, including Professional Scouters. The award is a silver arrowhead, bisected by a diagonal arrow, and suspended from a white ribbon with small embroidered red arrows.

Another award is the
Founder's Award. First awarded in 1981 after the death of Dr. Goodman, the Founders' Award is given to at least one youth and one adult each year by the lodge for unselfish service above and beyond their normal duties as Arrowmen. In essence, the Founders' Award is similar to the Distinguished Service Award, except it is awarded at the Lodge Level. The award is a display medallion, with the Arrowman wearing a ribbon pin, but with a gold arrow suspended from a solid red ribbon.

Another award, the
Red Arrow Award, is similar in nature to the Distinguished Service Award, but unlike the more renowned award, the Red Arrow Award is given to non-members only. It was first awarded in 1970. Because some of those honored were women who have since joined the OA when it allowed female scouters to join, these are the only OA members who have received it.

It is important to distinguish between awards and honors in the Order of the Arrow.
Honors refer only to the three honors of the order (Ordeal, Brotherhood and Vigil). The Founders ' Award, the Red Arrow Award and the Distinguished Service Award are all awards. Any of the awards of the Order of the Arrow may be presented to an individual regardless of which honor he has achieved.


Next Event
Spring Camporee

Next Roundtable
Jan. 8, 2009 6:30
Hanceville United Methodist Church

Next District
Committee Meeting

Jan. 8, 2009 8:00
Hanceville United Methodist Church

Next OA Event

OA Chapter Meeting
Jan. 8, 2009 6:00
Hanceville United Methodist Church

Quick Links
Council Website

National Scouting Website
Coosa Lodge 50 Website


Last updated on:
Friday, 02 January 2009 04:14:58 PM

2009 Mulberry District, BSA


This is not an official BSA site.