Order of the Arrow

What Is the Order of the Arrow?

Some of you may have Scouts BSA 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 Scouts BSA, 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 and 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 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.

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 Scouts.

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 last year. So now, I 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 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 two older sons and my husband are all Brotherhood members.

3 Responses to What Is the Order of the Arrow?

  1. Joseph Durnal August 19, 2010 at 7:45 AM #

    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 May 9, 2018 at 10:26 PM #

    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 June 20, 2018 at 2:12 PM #

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

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: