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What Is the Order of the Arrow?

Order of the Arrow

Some of you may have Scouts BSA or Venturers in your families who are in the process of becoming members of the Order of the Arrow. Just when you thought you were getting a grasp on Scouting, they threw something new at you!

The Order of the Arrow is Scouting’s national honor society. OA members are dedicated to the ideal of “cheerful service”. They also encourage other Scouts to participate in camping events.


To be eligible, Scouts must be First Class rank or higher. Venturers must have earned the Discovery Award.  Scouts and Venturers must have 15 days and nights of camping in the past two years. That must include one long term camp (summer camp), but you cannot count more than one long term camp when counting up nights. Members are elected by the members of their Troop – including those who are not OA members.


The induction ceremony is called the Ordeal. This involves some service and looking inward. Scouts and Venturers must also sleep “apart from others”. For our group who were elected at camp this year, this caused some anxiety in the parents when their sons took off with just their ground cloths and sleeping bags, but I assured them that it is a perfectly safe experience. The Scouts were not dumped in the woods in a survival situation.

Not a Secret Organization

Order of the Arrow members generally do not give specifics about the ceremonies. This is not because there is anything outrageous going on, but because the experience is more meaningful if new members experience it without any expectations of what is going to happen. Parents who are concerned about what happens at the ceremonies can watch, but are asked to keep the experience to themselves so they don’t diminish it for other potential members.

Adults in OA

Adults can also become members. This is less as an honor and more to help the Scouts with the experience. I became a member of Shawnee Lodge #51 several years ago. This enabled me to go on the OA campouts and to events and provide adult leadership to our Scouts who are participating in the organization.

This is a very worthwhile society. If your sons or daughters are new members, encourage them to do more than just complete the Ordeal. They should stay involved and fully participate. For those who do, there are further honors, called Brotherhood and Vigil. My sons and my husband are all Brotherhood members.


Scoutmaster Minute: Cheerful Service

This Scoutmaster minute would be appropriate as an inspirational thought when OA elections are approaching.

Order of the Arrow Troop Representative

The OA Troop Rep is a youth member of a Scouts BSA Troop. He or she attends local lodge meetings and relays information between the unit and the OA lodge. This is a recognized youth leadership position.

BSA Order of the Arrow

The BSA OA site will keep you up to date on OA related opportunities and news.


11 responses to “What Is the Order of the Arrow?”

  1. Joseph Durnal Avatar
    Joseph Durnal

    I was the boy who couldn’t get enough scouting. I started in a small troop, but I was elected to the Order of the Arrow at a camporee in 1990, and called\tapped out the very first night. Just that was an awesome experience. Shortly after completing my Ordeal, the troop essentially folded due to the scoutmaster’s illness, but the OA kept me involved in scouts. I joined another troop that really didn’t work for me, but kept my BSA membership and kept me in the OA, where I did a lot of service, I mean, folks were starting to think I was on camp staff I was at camp so much!! Through the OA I had contact with many scouts from many troops, and in 1992, I found the troop for me, keeping me involved in scouts. With this troop I went to Philmont, and other high adventure summer trips we came up with as youth leaders, including sailing in the Florida Keys! It was also through the OA that I learned about Explorers, now called Venturing, and since I couldn’t get enough scouts and camping, I joined an Explorer post too. Through cheerful service in the OA, I was able to get a Boy Scout experience that exceeded my wildest expectations!

  2. Ruby Ann Millsap Avatar
    Ruby Ann Millsap

    This was what I wanted to know as my great grand son has been elected to receive this distinguished accomplishment he is 12 the whole family is so proud of him. I believe he will become a very great scout master.

  3. Michelle Avatar

    I think that imitating Native American religious and cultural traditions is disrespectful. OA could do its secret ceremonies without disrespecting other cultures.

    1. Eric Avatar

      True, if the imitation denigrates the Native American religious and cultural traditions.

      In this case, they use it to empower and encourage them to do positive things for themselves and for their communities …. which is the purpose of what the original Native American religious and cultural traditions were meant to be about.

      As the saying goes, imitation is the highest form of flattery.

      1. Lori Avatar

        Native Americans don’t seem to be in favor of this practice. I believe the thought is t as positive as BSA would like because traditions from various tribes are lumped together. There was an article and interview in the Kansas City Star.

        1. Scouter Mom Avatar
          Scouter Mom

          As I understand it, the main objection is to the regalia. I believe the current guidelines are to work with local Native American tribes to develop appropriate regalia or to wear the Class A uniform or non-distinct attire.

          But also, I think that we need to be open to change and to respect all people. This is called progress. This is called respect. This is called love. We are all on a journey to a better understanding of each other. Love and compassion go a long way in creating good will. Change it difficult, takes some time, and requires humility. And it requires us all to be patient with each other.

          1. LTC Kenyon Kofoed Avatar
            LTC Kenyon Kofoed

            It is always a good idea to talk to your local tribes. Ours are the Bannock and Shoshone. They, over the years have felt we (the OA) respect their traditions and are very open to our activities.

    2. Gisela Avatar

      As a German, I feel that it is disrespectful if you imitate my culture and put up a Christmas tree at Christmas. Please don´t attend any Oktoberfest or eat any Bratwurst unless it is German, made by Germans in Germany. Thank you for respecting my culture

      1. Mick Avatar


        A scout is courteous. No one, in eating bratwurst, putting up Christmas trees, is pretending to be German. your comment is rather rude in it’s passive-aggressive attitude.

        1. Scouter123 Avatar

          I think this is sarcasm making light of people that think that any use of another culture is being insensitive. Don’t really think you understand the point of that post

    3. Scouter Dad Avatar
      Scouter Dad

      It’s mostly people who are not Native Americans who object to OA practices. Many OA lodges work with local tribes, and have not only the cooperation but also the blessings of tribal elders. For the tribes, it is an opportunity to educate outsiders about their history and culture. Unfortunately, people who don’t know what goes into OA ceremonies see only the externals, and assume that the OA members are behaving inappropriately, when in fact they are helping to preserve tribal traditions.

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