The Order of the Arrow (OA) was founded in 1915 and is the National honor society of the Boy Scouts of America. Members of the OA are composed of Scouts and Scouters who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives and are voted into the OA by youth. The OA was founded by E. Urner Goodman and co-founder Carroll A. Edson as a means of reinforcing the Scout Oath and the Scout Law. Members (known as Arrowmen or Brothers, regardless of gender) are organized into local youth-led lodges that promote fellowship, camping, and service to their Scout councils and communities. Each lodge corresponds to a BSA council in the area. Lodges are further broken down into chapters or villages, which correspond to a district in scouting.
In 1915, Goodman, a newly hired field executive for the Philadelphia Council, was assigned to serve as director of the council’s summer camp at Treasure Island Scout Reservation on the Delaware River. He believed that the summer camp experience should do more than just teach proficiency in Scoutcraft skills; rather, the principles embodied in the Scout Oath and Scout Law should become realities in the lives of Scouts. Along with his assistant camp director, Carroll A. Edson, he started an experimental honor society to acknowledge those campers he felt best exemplified these qualities, calling the program, Wimachtendienk, or “Brotherhood” in one of the Lenape dialects. The full original name for the organization was Wimachtendienk Wingolauchsik Witahemui (Brotherhood of Those Who Serve Cheerfully). It is still referred to via the inclusion of the letters “W W W” on most lodge patches.
Goodman and Edson decided that a “camp fraternity” was the way to improve the summer camp experience and to encourage older Scouts to continue attending Scout summer camp. In developing this program they borrowed from the traditions and practices of several other organizations. The traditions and rituals of Freemasonry contributed more to the basic structure of the OA ritual than any other organization. In fact, there appears to be no known fraternal organization more faithful in form to Freemasonry than the OA. Familiar terms such as “lodge” and “obligation” were borrowed from Masonic practice, as were most of the ceremonial structures and rituals.
Goodman and Edson ultimately devised a program where troops chose, at the summer camp’s conclusion, those boys from among their number who they felt best exemplified the ideals of Scouting. Those elected were acknowledged as having displayed, in the eyes of their fellow Scouts, a spirit of unselfish service and brotherhood. Edson and Goodman said they “based the OA’s lore and ceremonies on the lore of the Lenni Lenape Indians who had occupied Treasure Island in earlier times”. The Scouts honored at Treasure Island in 1915 and 1916 would become members of what is now Unami Lodge #1.
By 1921, Goodman had spoken to Scout leaders in surrounding states about their honor society, which resulted in multiple lodges being established by Scout councils in the northeastern United States. The name of the society was then changed to Order of the Arrow, and in October 1921, Goodman convened the first national meeting of what at that time was called the “National Lodge of the Order of the Arrow” in Philadelphia where Goodman was elected as Grand Chieftain. In 1931, there were OA lodges in 7 percent of BSA councils nationwide. By 1948, about two-thirds of the BSA’s councils had established OA lodges including our legacy councils. In 1948, the OA was also officialy integrated as a part of the Scouting program.
Since 1915, more than one million Scouts and Scouters have worn the OA sash on their uniforms, denoting membership in the Brotherhood. There are three honors within the OA: New members completing their induction are known as Ordeal Members and after six months new members can seal their membership as Brotherhood members. The third honor is the the Vigil Honor and is a recognition given to Arrowmen for distinguished contributions beyond the immediate responsibilities of their position or office to their lodge, the Order of the Arrow, Scouting, or their Scout Camp.
The organizational structure of the OA is National > Region > Section > Lodge > Chapter/Village. The first Order of the Arrow Lodge within our Legacy Councils was formed in 1944.
Swegedaigea Lodge 263 (Est 1944) – Silverado Area Council
Royaneh Lodge 282 (Est 1944) – San Francisco Area Council
Machek N’ Gult Lodge 379 (Est 1947) – Oakland Area Council
Kaweah Lodge 379 (Est 1947) – Alameda Council
Oo Yum Buli Lodge 468 (Est 1952) – Mt. Diablo Council
Achewon Nimat Lodge 282 (Est 1965) – San Francisco Bay Area Council
Ut-in Selica Lodge 58 (Est 1993) – Mt. Diablo Silverado Council
Order of the Arrow