About the Order of the Arrow
The purpose of the Order of the Arrow is fourfold:
1. To recognize those Scout campers who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives
2. To develop and maintain camping traditions and spirit
3. To promote Scout camping
4. To crystallize the Scout habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of leadership in cheerful service to others
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.
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 four 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 E. Urner Goodman and Carroll A. Edson. Today, the OA is recognized as Scouting’s National Honor Society.
The OA has more than 181,000 members located in lodges affiliated with more than 310 BSA local councils.
To become a member, a youth must be a registered member of a Boy Scout troop or Varsity Scout team and hold First Class rank. The youth must have experienced 15 days and nights of camping during the two years before his election. The 15 days and nights must include one, but no more than one, long-term camp consisting of six consecutive days and five nights of resident camping, approved and under the auspices and standards of the Boy Scouts of America. The balance of the camping must be overnight, weekend, or other short-term camps. Scouts are elected to the Order by their fellow troop or Varsity team members, following approval by the Scoutmaster or Varsity Scout Coach.
The induction ceremony, called the Ordeal, is conducted at Scout camp and is the first step toward full membership. During the experience, candidates maintain complete silence, receive small amounts of food, work on camp improvement projects, and are required to sleep alone, apart from other campers, which teaches significant values.
After 10 months of service 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 OA.
After two years of service as a Brotherhood member, and with the approval of the national Order of the Arrow Committee, a Scout may be recognized with the Vigil Honor for outstanding service to Scouting, his lodge, and the community. This honor is bestowed by special selection and is limited to one person for every 50 members registered with the lodge each year.
Each Order of the Arrow lodge is granted a charter from the National Council, BSA, upon annual application by the local council. The OA lodge helps the local council provide a quality Scouting program through recognition of Scouting spirit and performance, development of youth leadership and service, promotion of Scout camping and outdoor programs, and enhancement of membership tenure.
An Order of the Arrow section consists of lodges within a geographic area of the region. Once every year, representatives of lodges in the section come together for a conclave to share in fellowship, skills, and training. All of the elected section chiefs form the conference committee for a national Order of the Arrow event, which is held under the guidance of the national Order of the Arrow Committee.
The regional chief is the youth leader of the region elected by the section chiefs for a term of office specified by the national Order of the Arrow Committee, which coincides with the term of national chief and vice chief. This election is held in conjunction with called meetings of the section chiefs to elect the national chief and vice chief, as well as to plan a national Order of the Arrow event. The national chief and vice chief serve as members of the national Order of the Arrow Committee, representing youth on national OA policy.
The regional Order of the Arrow chairman is an adult appointed by the regional director. The professional adviser for the region is a staff member assigned to the position by the region director.
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 and National Lodge Adviser Training Seminar, 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 Order, 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.
National Chief and Vice Chief
The national chief and vice chief are Arrowmen selected by the section chiefs, who form the national Order of the Arrow conference committee. They serve as members of the national Order of the Arrow Committee, representing the youth on national OA policy. They also serve as the presiding officers for the national OA event. Their term of office is specified by the national committee. They are advised in their responsibilities by the national committee chairman and director of the Order of the Arrow.
National OA Committee Chairman
The national OA committee chairman is appointed by the chairman of the national Boy Scout Committee. The professional adviser is the director of the Order of the Arrow, a member of the national Boy Scout Division staff.
More information may be found in the Order of the Arrow Guide for Officers and Advisers, No. 34997A