A look at the Order of the Arrow as it celebrates 100 years

OrderoftheArrowThe Order of the Arrow, Scouting’s national honor society, celebrates its 100th anniversary this year with more than 170,000 active members in lodges affiliated with more than 295 local councils. The OA is taking a long look back at a proud history and preparing for even greater things to come.

“The OA centennial celebration is important because it provides an opportunity for Arrowmen to both reflect upon and celebrate the Order’s many contributions to our nation’s Scouting movement and to discern how best to carry those principles forward into our second century,” says Ray Capp, national OA chairman. “From its long-term commitment to unit service and quality summer camp operations, to cheerfully supporting districts, councils, areas and regions, OA members have rendered the critical leadership required to ensure success at all levels of the Boy Scouts of America.”

Mission and purpose
The OA recognizes Scouts and Scouters who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives. Arrowmen are known for maintaining camping traditions and spirit, promoting year-round and long-term resident camping, and providing service to others. The OA’s mission is to fulfill its purpose as an integral part of the BSA through positive youth leadership under the guidance of selected capable adults.

The OA’s purpose is to:

  • Recognize those who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Scout Law in their daily lives.
  • Promote camping, responsible outdoor adventure and environmental stewardship.
  • Develop leaders with the willingness, character, spirit and ability to advance the activities of their units, our Brotherhood, Scouting and ultimately our nation.
  • Crystallize the Scout habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of leadership in cheerful service to others.

Know your history
The OA, founded by Dr. E. Urner Goodman and Carroll A. Edson, began on July 16, 1915, at Treasure Island Scout Reservation. Originally, the society was called Wimachtendienk Wingolauchsik Witahemui (or WWW), the indigenous Lenni Lenape words for “brotherhood,” “cheerfulness” and “service.” In 1922, the group was designated an official “experiment” of Scouting but was not formally affiliated with the BSA until 1934.

The first modern National Order of the Arrow Conference (or NOAC) was held in 1948 at the University of Indiana. Between 1,100 and 1,200 delegates from 146 lodges attended, and delegates received the first OA patch, which also was their meal ticket.

In 1956, the National OA Committee, after consultation with medical advisors, determined that it was no longer safe to draw and exchange blood between two people in the “blood-rite” of the Brotherhood ceremony. The ceremony was changed to only “symbolically” draw blood, though there are accounts well into the 1960s of the practice continuing.

For much more OA history, go to history.oa-bsa.org.

Cause for celebration
Matt Dukeman, who will take over as director of the Order of the Arrow this November, says to look for lots of banquets, conclaves, fellowships and other events, including ArrowTour, which will “bring a piece of the 100th Anniversary” to local councils. ArrowTour’s mobile road show will make about 25 one-day stops at Scout camps and service centers in each region. There will be tent shows, history exhibits, sporting events and more.

Another big moment will be NOAC, held Aug. 3 to 8 on the campus of Michigan State. Dukeman says they’re expecting more than 15,000 participants, which will make it the largest NOAC ever.

“We’ll have all kinds of shows and trainings on how to better your lodge, some dealing with specific areas like American Indian dance and making regalia,” he says. “And OA Central will have every activity you could want to do: climbing, archery, scuba, you name it.”

Participants and staff at NOAC 2015 will receive a commemorative white-on-red sash.

OA lodges will join in the commemoration through the OA Legacy Project. Over the past few years, the lodges were invited to submit a lodge legacy rock, a history book and a decorated legacy crate lid. The crate itself will be filled with approved wood from the lodges’ local areas and brought to NOAC, where the wood will be burned in a ceremonial fire. Each lodge will come home with a vial of ash from the fire.

In all, 2015 will be a bright, shining year for the Order of the Arrow. Find out much more about the centennial at oa-bsa.org.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story used the word “firewood” to describe the wood being used in the OA Centennial Fire. The wood isn’t firewood but is approved wood that has been kiln-dried. Lodges should consult state and local restrictions about transporting wood across state lines.


  1. I’m all for traditions and rituals, but how exactly is the OA getting around restrictions on transporting firewood from other areas of the country?
    “…The crate itself will be filled with firewood from the lodges’ local areas and brought to NOAC…”

    So much for being “Honor Campers” and role models for our youth.

    • Plan Ahead And Prepare –
      “What kind of firewood is safe to move?
      The short answer to this is that most packaged heat treated firewood with a USDA APHIS treatment seal is considered safe to move.”

  2. Did you really just go there about the brotherhood ceremony and the “blood-rite”? So much for mystery

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