For more than 100 years, the Order of the Arrow (OA) has recognized Scouts and Scouters who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives. This recognition provides encouragement for others to live these ideals as well. Arrowmen are known for maintaining camping traditions and spirit, promoting year-round and long term resident camping, and providing cheerful service to others. OA service, activities, adventures, and training for youth and adults are models of quality leadership development and programming that enrich and help to extend Scouting to America's youth.
In 1915, Camp Director E. Urner Goodman and Assistant Camp Director Carroll A. Edson searched for a way to recognize select campers for their cheerful sprits of service at Treasure Island Scout Camp in the Delaware River. Goodman and Edson founded the Order of the Arrow when they held the first Ordeal Ceremony on July 16th of that year. By 1921, as the popularity of the organization spread to other camps, local lodges attended the first national gathering called a Grand Lodge Meeting.
The Order of the Arrow was one of many camp honor societies that existed at local Scout camps across the country. As the years went on and more camps adopted the Order of the Arrow’s program, it gained prominence and became part of the national Boy Scout program in 1934. By 1948, the OA, recognized as the BSA's national brotherhood of honor campers, became an official part of the Boy Scouts of America. Toward the end of the twentieth century, the OA expanded its focus to include conservation, high adventure, and servant-leadership.
In 1998 the Order of the Arrow created its first strategic plan. This document outlined ways that the OA could help the Boy Scouts of America accomplish their goals and strengthen the local program. One of the plan’s initiatives called for every lodge to become an integral part of its council’s operations. For many lodges, this was the first time a communication link had been established between the lodge leadership and the council Scout executive. It was also at this point that the Order of the Arrow officially became “Scouting’s National Honor Society.”
Throughout the years, the Order of the Arrow has played an integral role in the program of the Boy Scouts and in the community service its members contribute to their communities. To date, more than one million people have been members of the Order of the Arrow.
Presently, the Order of the Arrow consists of nearly 300 lodges, which form approximately 48 sections in the 4 geographical regions. Leadership positions and voting rights are restricted to members under the age of 21. Through the program, members live up to the ideals of brotherhood, cheerfulness, and service set forth by founders E. Urner Goodman and Carroll A. Edson.
As Scouting’s National Honor Society, our purpose is to: ¹Recognize those who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives and through that recognition cause others to conduct themselves in a way that warrants similar recognition. ²Promote camping, responsible outdoor adventure, and environmental stewardship as essential components of every Scout’s experience, in the unit, year-round, and in summer camp. ³Develop leaders with the willingness, character, spirit and ability to advance the activities of their units, our Brotherhood, Scouting, and ultimately our nation. ⁴Crystallize the Scout habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of leadership in cheerful service to others.
To be recognized as Scouting’s National Honor Society and an integral part of every council. Our service, activities, adventures, and training for youth and adults, are model of quality leadership development and programming that enrich, support, and help extend Scouting to America’s youth.
The OA has more than 160,000 active members located in lodges affiliated with over 270 BSA local councils.
The Order of the Arrow membership requirements are: ¹Be a registered member of the Boy Scouts of America. ²The youth must have experienced 15 nights of Boy Scout camping while registered with a troop or team within the two years immediately prior to the election. The 15 nights must include one, but no more than one, long-term camp consisting of at least five consecutive nights of overnight camping, approved and under the auspices and standards of the Boy Scouts of America. Only five nights of the long-term camp may be credited toward the 15-night camping requirement. The balance of the camping (10 nights) must be overnight, weekend, or other short-term camps of, at most, three nights each. ³Youth must be under the age of 21, hold the BSA First Class rank or higher, and following approval by the Scoutmaster or Varsity team Coach, be elected by the youth members of their troop or team. ⁴Adults (age 21 or older) who are registered in the BSA and meet the camping requirements may be selected following nomination to the lodge adult selection committee. Adult selection is based on their ability to perform the necessary functions to help the Order fulfill its purpose, and is not for recognition of service, including current or prior positions. Selected adults must be an asset to the Order because of demonstrated abilities, and must provide a positive example for the growth and development of the youth members of the lodge.