The Order of the Arrow is Scouting's National Honor Society.
The purpose of the Order of the Arrow is fourfold:
- To recognize those Scout campers who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law
in their daily lives
- To develop and maintain camping traditions and spirit
- To promote Scout camping
- To crystallize the Scout habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of
leadership in cheerful service to others
The Order of the Arrow (OA) was founded by Dr. E. Urner Goodman and Carroll A.
Edson in 1915 at the Treasure Island Camp of the Philadelphia Council, Boy
Scouts of America. It became an official program experiment in 1922 and was
approved as part of the Scouting program in 1934.
In 1948 the OA, recognized as the BSA's national brotherhood of honor
campers, became an official part of the national camping program of the Boy
Scouts of America.
The OA has more than 176,000 members located in lodges affiliated with
approximately 327 BSA local councils.
Scouts are elected to the Order by their fellow unit members, following approval
by the Scoutmaster or Varsity team Coach. To become a member, a youth must be a
registered member of a Boy Scout troop or Varsity Scout team and hold First
Class rank. The youth must have experienced fifteen days and nights of Boy Scout
camping during the two-year period prior to the election. The fifteen days and
nights must include one, but no more than one, long-term camp consisting of six
consecutive days and five nights of resident camping, approved and under the
auspices and standards of the Boy Scouts of America. The balance of the camping
must be overnight, weekend, or other short-term camps.
Adult selection is based on their ability to perform the necessary functions
to help the Order fulfill its purpose, and is not for recognition. Selected
adult Scouters must be an asset to the Order because of demonstrated abilities,
and provide a positive role model for the youth members of the lodge.
The induction ceremony, called the Ordeal, is the first step toward full
membership. During the experience, candidates maintain silence, receive small
amounts of food, work on camp improvement projects, and are required to sleep
alone, apart from other campers. The entire experience is designed to teach
After 10 months of service and fulfilling certain requirements, a member may
take part in the Brotherhood ceremony, which places further emphasis on the
ideals of Scouting and the Order. Completion of this ceremony signifies full
membership in the OA.
After two years of service as a Brotherhood member, and with the approval of the
national Order of the Arrow Committee, a Scout may be recognized with the Vigil
Honor for outstanding service to Scouting, his lodge, and the community. This
honor is bestowed by special selection and is limited to one person for every 50
members registered with the lodge each year.
Each local Boy Scout council is encouraged to have an Order of the Arrow lodge.
Each lodge is granted a charter from the National Council, BSA, upon annual
application. The OA lodge helps the local council provide a quality Scouting
program through recognition of Scouting spirit and performance, development of
youth leadership and service, promotion of Scout camping and outdoor programs,
and enhancement of membership tenure.
An Order of the Arrow section consists of lodges within a geographic area of the
region. Once every year, representatives of lodges in the section come together
for a conclave to share in fellowship, skills, and training. A section is lead
by three youth officers, the Section Chief, Section Vice-Chief, and Section
Secretary, who are advised by an adult Section Adviser and professional Section
Staff Adviser. All of the elected section chiefs are invited form the conference
committee for a national Order of the Arrow event, which is held under the
guidance of the national Order of the Arrow Committee.
The region chief is the youth leader of the region elected by the section chiefs
in his region. This election is held in conjunction with called meetings of the
section chiefs to elect the national chief and vice-chief, as well as to plan a
national Order of the Arrow event.
The region Order of the Arrow chairman is an adult appointed by the region
director. The professional adviser for the region is a staff member assigned to
the position by the region director.
The national chief and vice-chief are Arrowmen elected by the section chiefs
during the annual national planning meeting. They serve as members of the
national Order of the Arrow Committee, providing the opinion of youth on
national OA policy. They also serve as the presiding officers for the national
OA event. Their term of office is specified by the national committee, and is
currently one year. They are advised in their responsibilities by the national
committee chairman and national director of the Order of the Arrow.
The national OA committee chairman is appointed by the chairman of the
national Boy Scout Committee. The professional adviser is the national director
of the Order of the Arrow, a member of the national Boy Scout Division staff.
This material was adapted from the "OA Factsheet" from the BSA
national office, and the Guide for Officers and Advisers.