About Order of the Arrow

The mission of the Order of the Arrow (OA) is to fulfill its purpose as an integral part of the Boy Scouts of America through positive youth leadership under the guidance of selected capable adults.

History

For more than 100 years, the Order of the Arrow 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.

1915
Founded at Treasure Island Scout Camp

Camp Director E. Urner Goodman and Assistant Camp Director Carroll A. Edson searched for a way to recognize select campers for their cheerful spirits 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.

1915
1921
Founded at Treasure Island Scout Camp

As the popularity of the organization spread to other camps, local lodges attended the first national gathering called a Grand Lodge Meeting (now known as NOAC).

1921
1934
Officially Integrated into the Boy Scout Program

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.

1934
1948
Officially Integrated into the Boy Scouts of America

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.

1948
1998
The Lodge Becomes an Integral Part of the Council

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.”

1998
NOW
Continuing to Make an Impact

Throughout the years, the Order of the Arrow has played an integral role in the Boy Scouts of America 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.

NOW

Organization & Structure

The Order of the Arrow has three distinct organizational levels: lodges, sections, and regions. Lodges carry out the Order of the Arrow program at the local level and are closely tied with BSA councils. Sections consist of several lodges within a geographic region and regions, in turn, consist of sections within a geographic region of the United States. Lodges, sections, and regions each have a distinct set of responsibilities which ensure that the OA program runs smoothly.

If a lodge has chapters, generally there is one chapter created in each district of the council. Each chapter has its own officers and advisers, the officers being elected by the youth OA members within the chapter, and the advisers being appointed by the Scout executive often with the consultation of the lodge adviser and district executive(s).

Chapters provide the ability to have meetings closer to home and meetings and events can be scheduled to coincide with the district events. The chapter is central to providing quality unit visits for camping promotion, and unit elections.

At the local level, lodges exist to serve BSA councils and individual units. The key leaders in the lodge are the youth lodge chief, volunteer adult lodge adviser, and staff adviser. The lodge chief presides over the Lodge Executive Committee, which is responsible for executing the annual program of the lodge.

While each lodge is different, many lodges have one or more vice chiefs, a secretary, and a treasurer, as well as committee chairmen responsible for various aspects of the lodge’s program.

A map of all OA lodges can be viewed here.

An Order of the Arrow section consists of lodges within a geographic area of the region. Each section is led by a chief, vice chief, and secretary, who play a crucial part in making the annual Conclave a success. The section may lead training seminars, promote national programs of emphasis, and provide resources to local lodges. The section chief presides over the Council of Chiefs, attended by delegates of each member lodge.

Each year the approximately fifty elected section chiefs are invited to a national planning meeting in Dallas, TX. The section chiefs form the conference committee for a national Order of the Arrow event, such as the National Order of the Arrow Conference (NOAC), which is held under the guidance of the national Order of the Arrow committee.

The Order of the Arrow, like the Boy Scouts of America, is organized into four geographical regions: Central, Northeast, Southern, and Western. Each region is led by a youth region chief, a volunteer region chairman, and a region staff adviser.

The region leadership helps execute the national program on a more local level, implements the National Leadership Seminar (NLS) and Developing Youth Leadership Conference (DYLC), provides its member sections with resources, and facilities communication between local organizations and the national OA committee.

At the national level, the Order of the Arrow is governed by the national Order of the Arrow committee. The national committee sets policy, directs the national program of the OA, and broadly manages the organization above the local lodge level.

The committee is composed of the national chief and national vice chief (and their immediate predecessors), who are elected annually at the national planning meeting; the chairman, who is appointed annually by the chairman of the national Outdoor Adventures committee; other volunteer members, appointed by the chairman; and two staff members, the director of the Order of the Arrow and the OA specialist.

Purpose

As Scouting’s National Honor Society, our purpose is to:

Vision

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.

Membership

The Order of the Arrow has more than 160,000 active members located in lodges affiliated with over 270 BSA local councils. As of August 2018, there is now an OA lodge in every council across the United States.

Requirements

As of February 1, 2019, unit elections are permitted in Scouts BSA, Venturing, and Sea Scout units. The Order of the Arrow membership requirements are:

Levels

While there are three levels of membership (called “honors”) in the Order of the Arrow, all members—regardless of honor—are considered equal.

OA Ordeal sash
OA Brotherhood sash
OA Vigil sash

Ordeal

Brotherhood

Vigil Honor

The induction ceremony, called the Ordeal, is the first step toward full membership in the Order. During the experience, candidates maintain silence, receive small amounts of food, work on camp improvement projects, and sleep apart from other campers. The entire experience is designed to teach significant values.

All candidates for membership must complete the Ordeal.

After six months of service as an Ordeal member and fulfilling certain requirements, a member may take part in the Brotherhood ceremony, which places further emphasis on the ideals of Scouting and the Order.

Completion of this ceremony signifies full membership in the Order.

After two years of exceptional service as a Brotherhood member, and with the approval of the national Order of the Arrow committee, a Scout or Scouter may be recognized with the Vigil Honor for their distinguished contributions to their lodge, the Order of the Arrow, Scouting, or their Scout camp. This honor is bestowed by special selection and is limited to one person for every 50 members registered with the lodge each year.

  • Ordeal
  • Brotherhood
  • Vigil Honor
Ordeal

The induction ceremony, called the Ordeal, is the first step toward full membership in the Order. During the experience, candidates maintain silence, receive small amounts of food, work on camp improvement projects, and sleep apart from other campers. The entire experience is designed to teach significant values. All candidates for membership must complete the Ordeal.

Brotherhood

After six months of service as an Ordeal member and fulfilling certain requirements, a member may take part in the Brotherhood ceremony, which places further emphasis on the ideals of Scouting and the Order.

Completion of this ceremony signifies full membership in the Order.

Vigil Honor

After two years of exceptional service as a Brotherhood member, and with the approval of the national Order of the Arrow committee, a Scout or Scouter may be recognized with the Vigil Honor for their distinguished contributions to their lodge, the Order of the Arrow, Scouting, or their Scout camp. This honor is bestowed by special selection and is limited to one person for every 50 members registered with the lodge each year.

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