About the Order of the Arrow

What is the Order of the Arrow?

The Order of the Arrow is Scouting’s National Honor Society, a brotherhood of honor campers. It is a society of Boy Scouts that functions as a part of the regular camping program of the Boy Scouts. Its foremost purpose is to promote and enrich Scout camping.

The OA members in a local Scout council form a Lodge (used as in Indian tradition in the sense of the hunting lodge or the council lodge). The Order of the Arrow is run entirely by youth members (under age 21). Note that this Guide was compiled and produced by youth. Adults provide the necessary guidance needed in any organization; both are needed, and both are essential to the program’s success.

Elements of Indian tradition are used in the Order of the Arrow for dramatic effect. Indian dancing and ceremonies are a major part of all Lodge activity, but should never obscure its objective.

A Scout becomes a member not so much for what he has done, but for what he is expected to do. Membership in the Order of the Arrow should be considered an honor, and those that wear the sash with the red arrow (the symbol of our Order) can be proud of their accomplishment.

The Order of the Arrow was founded during the summer of 1915 at Treasure Island, the Philadelphia Council Scout Camp. Dr. E. Urner Goodman was camp director and Carrol A. Edson his assistant. These two men, working with their staff at Treasure Island, originated the ideas that became the basis for this nationwide campers honor society of the Boy Scouts of America. The ideas grew out of a desire to make the principles of the Scout Oath and Law more effective in the lives of Scout campers. Since the Delaware Valley was rich in Indian tradition and the site of the Scout camp was an island used in bygone days as a camping ground of the Delaware tribes, it seemed only natural to base this campers’ honor society on the legends and traditions of these Indians.

From the day of its founding in 1915, the Order of the Arrow has been an influence for good in the camping program of the Boy Scouts. It has always recognized those Scout campers who best exemplified the Scout promise and Law in their daily lives. It has developed and maintained camping traditions and spirit, and has at all times promoted Scout camping.

But perhaps of even greater importance is the fact that the Order of the Arrow has had an enormous good influence on the lives of thousands of boys and young men by helping crystallize the constant habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of leadership in cheerfulness to others.

Elections for the Order of the Arrow are held every year. Scouts through 20 years of age are elected by vote of those Scouts in their Troop under the age of 18. Adults are nominated,not elected, by other adult members in their units.

To be eligible for election, a Scout must have 15 days and nights of camping, including at least one long-term camp (six consecutive days).

Scouts must reach the rank of First Class before they are eligible for election to the Order. There are no rank requirements for adults, however they must meet the camping requirements.

Candidates for induction have one year from the date of their election in which to be inducted, unless special arrangements are made through the Lodge Executive Committee. All candidates participate in a call-out ceremony for the purpose of public recognition of the honor.

Every candidate inducted into the Order participates in an Ordeal and ceremonies, which are conducted in a serious and dignified manner true to Scouting tradition. All of the procedures possess deep meaning. The induction is not a hazing or an initiation ceremony; in fact hazing and other such procedures are prohibited in the Order of the Arrow. There is an element of mystery in the ceremonies, and for the sake of their effect on candidates, Order of the Arrow ceremonies are not performed at public gatherings. The ceremonies are planned so that they are not objectionable to any religious group.

After a period of ten months, during which the new Ordeal member has shown a continued interest in Scouting and the camping program and has served others cheerfully, he may seal his membership in the Order of the Arrow by participation in the Brotherhood Ceremony. This ceremony not only signifies the sealing of membership in the Order, but also places additional emphasis upon its ideals and purposes.

Vigil Honor
Order of the Arrow members who have given two or more years of exceptional leadership in service may, after becoming a Brotherhood member, be recognized by the conferring of the Vigil Honor. This is one of the highest honors that a local Lodge can bestow and a special ceremony is held for this purpose.