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Order of the Arrow

To the reader: The Order of the Arrow desires to keep its activities secret from Boy Scouts and adult leaders who are not members, with the intent of heightening curiosity and respect. With that in mind, this article is intentionally tight-lipped regarding certain aspects of the Order.
The Order of the Arrow is not a secret society. Secret societies are forbidden within the Boy Scouts of America. However, ceremonies are safeguarded from non-members without a specific reason to know in order to preserve their impact on future candidates. Any concerned adult, with proper reason, can read or view the ceremonies upon approval of the local authorities. All business meetings are open to non-members.

The Order of the Arrow (OA) is an official part of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). It is the BSA's honor society for experienced campers, based on Native American traditions, and dedicated to the ideal of cheerful service. Members of the OA are called Arrowmen.

The OA began at a Scout camp on Treasure Island, in the Delaware River near Philadelphia. The two men most involved in its creation were camp director Dr. E. Urner Goodman, and his assistant Carroll A. Edson. It had come to their attention that many other camps had created honor societies for Scouts who had attended them. They decided to create one of their own, and to base it on the traditions and legends of the local Lenni Lenape (Delaware) Indians. Hence we have the name Brotherhood of Cheerful Service, and many ceremonies that shall not be revealed here.

The smallest unit of the OA is the Chapter, corresponding to a District of the BSA. The higher levels are, in order, the Lodge (corresponding to the Council), the Section, and the Region. OA activities - primarily meetings and service projects - are usually organized by the Chapters.

Inductees to the OA must first be elected by a majority vote of their fellow Scouts. Any Scout who has reached the rank of First Class is eligible for election, and an election may not be overruled by any adult leader. The next step is the tapping-out, performed by a member of the OA dressed up as a Delaware Indian. This usually occurs at a Camporee, but if a troop does not go to Camporee, it will be done at a troop meeting. Full membership is conferred after the Ordeal, a two-night camping event. The Ordeal is a highly symbolic experience, designed to foster the spirit of brotherhood, cheerfulness, and service, and to cause the inductees to ponder why they were selected. Further details shall not be revealed here.

Arrowmen are identified by a white sash bearing a red arrow worn over their right shoulder. They are also identified by special Order of the Arrow patches worn on their Boy Scout uniforms. Many of these patches are now quite collectible and are of special historical significance.

Numerous other camp honor societies existed at some point during the BSA's history. Some faded into history. Some are still active today. Others eventually became Order of the Arrow lodges. Among the more widespread of these societies are the Order of Mic-O-Say, Firecrafters, Kunieh, PGT, and The Clan of the Mistic [sic] Oak.

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