Order of the Arrow
Cape Cod & Islands Council
What is the Order of the Arrow?
The Order of the Arrow is the honor campers society of the Boy Scouts of America. It was founded in 1915 at the Treasure Island Scout Camp of the Philadelphia Council of the BSA. The founders of the Order of the Arrow, E. Urner Goodman and and Carroll A. Edson, were serving as directors of the camp, and as they developed the summer camp program, they wanted a way to recognize those Scouts and Scouters in camp who, in living the Scout Oath and Law, brought the principles of brotherhood , cheerfulness , and service to the camp lifestyle.
Each chartered council of the Boy Scouts of America (the organizational level which serves a geographic area of local units in communities) can charter an Order of the Arrow lodge. The lodge is the basic unit of OA program; each lodge is assigned a numerical designation, and lodges develop a name and totem based on local traditions. The OA provides a medium of service to camping and opportunities for youth leadership to experienced Scouts in Boy Scouting.
Known as "Arrowmen," OA members have service obligations to both their local unit and the council camping program. Membership in the OA does not replace an Arrowman's membership or responsibility to his local troop; in fact, members are encouraged to give even greater service to their units. Besides assisting the camping program, councils will call upon the OA lodge for all manner of special services, as the young men in the lodge represent the best among Scouting's youth.
As the symbol of the Order, the arrow is a logical choice. Its point keen, its course steady, pointed onward and upward, it represents the life for which the member strives in giving cheerful service.
The Purpose of the Order of the Arrow
To recognize those campers -- Scouts and Scouters -- who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives, and by such recognition, cause other campers to conduct themselves in such a manner as to warrant recognition
To develop and maintain camping traditions and spirit
To promote Scout camping, which reaches its greatest effectiveness as part of the unit's camping program, both year-round and in the summer camp, as directed by the camping committee of the council
To crystallize the Scout habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of leadership in cheerful service to others.
Membership in the Order of the Arrow
Membership in the Order of the Arrow is open to youth Scouts and adult Scouters who are registered members of the Boy Scouts of America.
Youth are elected by their peers (fellow Scouts) in their troop in an election conducted by a trained election representative or team from the Lodge. Scouts are asked to select those Scouts who are good campers, and who show the Order's ideals of Brotherhood, Cheerfulness, and Service. Any Scout who
- holds the rank of First Class Scout
- has 15 days/nights of camping (including one long-term camp of 6 days/5 nights)
- and who is approved by his Scoutmaster
can be a candidate for an election; and any candidate who receives a majority vote of the Scouts voting is elected (A Scout can vote for more than one person.) Additionally, each troop can nominate an adult Scouter to become a member of the OA as an adviser to youth leaders.
Once elected, a youth or adult candidate undergoes an induction process called the Ordeal.
Starting with an inspiring ceremony, the candidate is presented with four challenges to help him understand the obligations of a member of the Order to show brotherhood, cheerfulness, and service. Once the four tests are completed, the member takes an obligation of service, and becomes an Ordeal member of the Order. Note that nothing in the Ordeal is considered hazing; the "tests" are exercises intended to promote self-discovery and inspiration, and all ceremonies are reviewed regularly by Scouting and religious leaders. The experience of the Ordeal is to challenge one's self to understand an obligation of life-long cheerful service.
About a year after the Ordeal, Ordeal members who have developed an ideal of cheerful service to others can "seal" their OA membership through the Brotherhood Ceremony.
This second ceremony is a rededication to the original principles of the Ordeal, and carries an additional obligation to cheerful service.
Brotherhood members who devote years of service to the lodge, to the camp, to the council, or some other part of Scouting may be awarded the Vigil Honor, the lodge's highest award for exceptional service.
The Vigil Honor
Vigil members carry an even greater obligation to service, for the honor is bestowed not for what one has done, but for what one is expected to do. Vigil Honor members understand they are examples of leadership in cheerful service to others.