Order of the Arrow

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The Order of the Arrow (OA) is the national honor society of the Boy Scouts of America. Founded in 1915, it uses American Indian traditions and ceremonies to bestow recognition on Scouts selected by their peers as best exemplifying the Scout Oath and Scout Law in their daily lives. Inducted members are known as Arrowmen or brothers and are organized into local youth-led lodges for fellowship and the rendering of service to Boy Scout councils and their communities.


History, Vision, and Purpose

The Order of the Arrow was founded in 1915 by Dr. E. Urner Goodman and Carroll A. Edson at a Scout summer camp on Treasure Island, on the Delaware River near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It became an official program experiment in 1922 and was approved as part of the Scouting program in 1934. The BSA adopt OA as part of its official program in 1934 with full integration by 1948. As of 2007, only two BSA councils do not have associated OA lodges: Long Beach Area Council in California has the Tribe of Tahquitz and the Pony Express Council in Missouri has the Tribe of Mic-O-Say. As Scouting's National Honor Society, the Order of the Arrow is an integral part of the council's program. The service, activities, adventures, and training for youth and adults are models of quality leadership development and programming that enrich and help to extend Scouting to America's youth.

The OA has four official purposes:

  • To recognize those campers-Scouts and Scouters-who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives and by such recognition cause other campers to conduct themselves in such a manner as to warrant recognition.
  • To develop and maintain camping traditions and spirit.
  • To promote Scout camping, which reaches its greatest effectiveness as a part of the unit's camping program, both year-round and in the summer camp, as directed by the camping committee of the council.
  • To crystallize the Scout habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of leadership in cheerful service to others.


More than 180,000 youths and adults are members of the Order of the Arrow, approximately one-eighth of the total number of those registered in the Boy Scout program. In contrast to Boy Scouts, where youth members are under 18 and adult members are those 18 and over, OA youth members include all persons under 21 years of age while those 21 and over are considered adult members.


  • Be a registered member of the Boy Scouts of America.
  • After registration with a troop or team, have experianced 15 days and nights of Boy Scout camping during the two-year period prior to election. The 15 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 BSA. The balance of the camping must be overnight, weekend, or other short-term camps.
  • Youth must be under the age of 21, hold the BSA First Class rank or higher, and following approval by the Scoutmaster or Varsity Coach, be elected by the youth members of their troop or team. Adults may be selected following nomination to the lodge adult selection committee


An election is held anually within the units participated and is conducted by secret ballot to help minimize peer pressure. Most lodges (or chapters in larger area lodges) support an election team that a unit can invite to help hold the OA elections; it is charged to inform the unit of the service and duty required of an Arrowman, that only the most dedicated Scouts should be considered. In best practice, the election team counts the votes and notifies the Scoutmaster or Varsity Coach of the results.

Adults who had not previously joined the Order as a youth member may become members by being nominated by the unit, district or council committee and then approved by the lodge Adult Selection Committee. Adults must meet the same criteria as youth except the rank requirement.

After being elected or nominated, most candidates participate in a calling-out ceremony, performed by OA members dressed in ceremonial Indian regalia. This call-out usually occurs sometime prior to the ordeal, and may be done at summer camp, a camporee, a call-out weekend or at a troop or team meeting.

After Order of the Arrow election, a Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, or Scouter is considered a candidate until completion of the Ordeal.

Ordeal sash
Ordeal sash


"It is the purpose of the Ordeal to have the candidate reflect on his own Scout life and character and come to a deeper understanding of the Scout Oath and the principles of the Order."

The induction process, called the Ordeal, is the first step toward full membership in the Order. During the experience, candidates maintain silence, work on camp improvement projects, and sleep apart from other campers. The candidate is expected to use this time to reflect on the events taking place, as well as seeking out past shortcomings and resolving to live a life of service in the future.

The Ordeal induction ceremony is often conducted at Scout camp and is the first step toward full membership. During the experience, candidates maintain complete silence, receive small amounts of food, work on camp improvement projects, and are required to sleep alone, apart from other campers, which teaches significant values. Upon completion, members are Ordeal Members.

Brotherhood sash
Brotherhood sash

Brotherhood membership

After 10 months of service as an Ordeal member and after 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 Order.

Vigil Honor sash
Vigil Honor sash

Vigil Honor

After a minimum of two years as a Brotherhood member of the Order, Arrowmen are eligible to be selected for the Vigil Honor by their lodge. Selection is limited to one person for every 50 members of the lodge and is made annually based on exceptional service above and beyond the norm, whether through leadership, exemplary efforts, or dedication. As stated in the OA Fact Sheet, "The Vigil Honor is a high mark of distinction and recognition reserved for those Arrowmen who, by reason of exceptional service, personal effort, and unselfish interest, have made distinguished contributions beyond the immediate responsibilities of their position or office to one or more of the following: their lodge, the Order of the Arrow, Scouting, or their Scout camp. Under no circumstances should tenure in Scouting or the Order of the Arrow be considered as reason enough for a Vigil Honor recommendation."

Uniform and Insignia

A lodge pocket flap with universal arrow ribbon.
A lodge pocket flap with universal arrow ribbon.
The iconic Order of the Arrow sashes.
The iconic Order of the Arrow sashes.
Vigil Honor pin.
Vigil Honor pin.

Only currently registered members of the Boy Scouts of America and the Order may wear the insignia of the Order of the Arrow.

  • Arrow sashes - It is a white fabric sash with a red arrow embroidered upon it. Ordeal members wear the Ordeal sash, Brotherhood members wear the Brotherhood sash, and Vigil Honor members wear the Vigil Honor sash. The OA sash is worn with the official Scout field uniform or Scouting's official adult dress wear (a blue blazer and grey slacks). The sash may also be worn by Elangomats who are not in uniform at an Ordeal, youth wearing ceremonial attire, and in such other instances approved by the Scout executive. The sash is worn over the right shoulder so that the arrow is pointing over the right shoulder. The sash is worn diagonally across the chest. It is not to be worn in any other manner. Sashes may not be altered in any way or form. Beading or any other material is not permitted on the sash. Nothing is to be worn on the sash, including signatures, patches of any kind, pins, or legends. The only exceptions are the 50th and 60th anniversery awards. Either of these may be worn as an option, by those who have earned them, on the shoulder portion above the bar at the point of the arrow. The sash is worn at Order of the Arrow functions and special Scouting activities, when members need to be identified as Arrowmen rendering special services.
  • Lodge pocket flap - Most lodges have their own distinct pocket flaps that may be worn by Arrowmen in their own lodge. The flap is worn on their right breast pocket. They usually show the lodge name and totem. Chapter or clan flaps are not permitted. Beading of flaps is against unifrom policy. Members may only wear the lodge pocket flap of the lodge where their dues are paid. If the lodge has been certified as a National Quality Lodge, members of the lodge may wear a Quality Lodge pin on the pocket flap. Only the most recent pin awarded may be worn, and it must be mounted against the left vertical border of the flap.
  • Universal Arrow ribbon signifying membership - This is a silver arrow suspended from a red-and-white ribbon. It is worn hanging from the button of the right breast pocket of the uniform shirt. It is to be worn only with the official Scout uniform.
  • Founder's Award Arrow ribbon - Recipients of the Founder's Award are entitled to wear the Founder's Award Arrow ribbon, which is similar to the Universal Arrow ribbon, except that it is a gold-colored arrow suspended from a red ribbon.
  • Vigil Honor pin - The Vigil Honor pin is worn by Vigil Honor members only, on nonuniform attire or centered on the red and white Universal Arrow ribbon.
  • Distinguished Service Award square knot - An embroidered cloth knot (white knot on red cloth) is available for holders of the Order's National Distinguished Service Award. The knot is worn as prescribed in the BSA Insignia Guide.
  • Distinguished Service Award lapel pin - This pin is for nonuniform wear. Only Arrowmen who have been awarded the DSA may wear this silver lapel pin.
  • Civilian Arrow pin - This Arrow pin is for nonuniform wear. This simple silver lapel pin may be worn by all members of the Order.
  • Advisor's badge of office - A special advisor's patch is available for currently appointed section, lodge, and chapter advisers. The associate adviser is an optional position that, with proper prior approval, may be appointed to help fulfill the mission of the lodge. The patch is to be worn on the left sleeve of the uniform in the location prescribed for the badge of office. These badges of office are the only badges authorized for Order of the Arrow advisor positions.
  • Troop or team representative's badge of office - A special patch is available for youth members (under age 18) appointed to the position of OA troop or team representative. The patch is to be worn on the left sleeve of the uniform in the locationprescribed for the badge of office. These are the only badges of office authorized for Order of the Arrow youth positions.


"The mission of the lodge is to achieve the purpose of the Order of the Arrow as an integral part of the Boy Scouts of America in the council through positive youth leadership under the guidance of selected capable adults."

Each local Boy Scout council is encouraged to have an Order of the Arrow lodge. 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.

What lodges typically do:

  • Make long-range plans, including budgets.
  • Make operating policy decisions.
  • Keep membership and financial records.
  • Collect dues; order and sell supplies.
  • Develop camping promotions and unit elections materials.
  • Lead participation in sectional and national events.
  • Publish a lodge newsletter.
  • Make Vigil Honor and Founder's Award nominations and handle other awards.
  • Provide leadership training.
  • Plan, run, and evaluate lodge activities.
  • Provide liaison to the local council.

What chapters typically do:

  • Supervise Order of the Arrow elections in the geographical area.
  • Hold several meetings each year.
  • Act as a rallying point for members going to lodge activities.
  • Support a specialized part of the lodge program (such as a ceremonal or dance team).
  • Have specific jobs at lodge activities, such as cooking and cleanup, etc.
  • Write for the lodge newsletter or its own newsletter.


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, program ideas, skills, and training. In addition, the section creates a monitoring/mentoring relationship with its lodges, provides leadership development opportunities, fosters understanding and adherence to national OA policies and procedures, and coordinates OA administrative and program functions. The section key three leadership consists of the section chief, section adviser, and section staff adviser.

Region Leadership

The region chief is a youth leader elected annually 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 an adult staff member assigned to the position by the region director. All three of the OA region leaders serve as members of the National Order of the Arrow Committee.

National Leadership

The national chief and vice chief are Arrowmen elected to one-year terms by the section chiefs during the annual national planning meeting. They serve as members of the National Order of the Arrow Committee to provide the voice of the youth Arrowmen on national OA policy. They also serve as the presiding officers for the national OA event. 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 director of the Order of the Arrow, a member of the national Boy Scout Division staff.


Most lodges hold several annual events, often at camps belonging to the local Boy Scout council, for the purpose of fellowship, inducting new members, and service work to improve the council camp. Annually, members of lodges who are grouped into a section (an administrative grouping of anywhere from two to ten lodges) gather at a Section Conclave for fellowship, training, competition, and to elect youth officers to lead the Section.

For several years, the Order has sponsored special service groups to the three National High Adventure Bases. This started with the Order of the Arrow Trail Crew at the Philmont Scout Ranch, which has worked to build new trails and repair old ones. Later this expanded to the Northern Tier National High Adventure Bases with the OA Wilderness Voyage, which has repaired the portage trails in the Boundary Waters area. Most recently, the OA began the "Ocean Adventure" at the Florida National High Adventure Sea Base in the Florida Keys, which offers scuba diving certification and works to repair reefs.

In a new program of national service planned for the summer of 2008, the OA will offer ArrowCorps5 to both youth and adult Arrowmen. Described as "one of the largest conservation efforts in Scouting's history" by the Boy Scouts of America, more than 5,000 Arrowmen will converge on five national forests to work on various conservation projects such as building new trails and helping preserve nearly extinct species, in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service.

Since the 1950s, the Order has fielded a Service Corps for National Scout jamborees. At recent jamborees, this has expanded with a major show and "The Outdoor Adventure Program".

Awards and Honors

  • National Quality Lodge program
  • Josh R. Sain Memorial Scholarships
  • Maury Clancy Indian Campership fund
  • E. Urner Goodman Camping Award
  • National Service Award
  • National Service Grant Program
  • Founder's Award
  • Red Arrow Award
  • Distinguished Service Award

National Order of the Arrow Conference (NOAC)

Every two years, during the month of August, the Order of the Arrow holds a national conference on the campus of a major university. The national conference is held over six days with from 6,000 to 7,000 Arrowmen usually participating, coming from throughout the United States and its territories, and some from overseas. The conference program includes innovative leadership development programs, fellowship periods, inspirational gatherings (shows), ceremony team development, American Indian pageants, camping promotion, and opportunities to hear and talk with national leaders of the Order of the Arrow and the Boy Scouts of America.








  • 2000 @ University of Tennessee
  • 2002 @ Indiana University
  • 2004 @ Iowa State University
  • 2006 @ Michigan State University
  • 2009 @ Indiana University


  • 2012 @ Michigan State University

Official NOAC 2012 Site


Philbreak is an "alternate spring break" program started in 2003 to help restore Philmont Scout Ranch after devastating forest fires the previous year. Since 2004, the participants have been working on the Urraca Trail, which is intended as a day hike for those attending the Philmont Training Center. Participants in the seven day program are expected to work eight or nine hour days in all types of conditions. The program takes place during three separate weeks during March. Upon arrival at Philmont, participants meet their trained staff and immediately begin project orientation. Work crews perform meaningful service projects for Philmont and build their understanding of wilderness conservation and the outdoors. Participants also have an opportunity to take a ski break at Angel Fire. Participants are required to be registered with the BSA in their local council, be between the ages of 18 and 26. The Order usually provides a large number of the participants through its Philbreak recruiting efforts. The program's goals are:

  • To provide Philmont with approximately 72 scouters for service to Philmont.
  • To provide a qualified pool of potential staff members.
  • To enhance and build participant's leadership skills.


In addition to training courses available at a NOAC or section conclave, the OA offers specialized leadership training as weekend events for members:

  • Lodge Leadership Development (LLD): a one-day or two-day event conducted by a lodge to train their officers and advisers, making use of an OA website to create a customized training syllabus based on survey data entered by lodge officers and advisers.
  • National Leadership Seminars (NLS): conducted by regions for lodge officers and advisers. Many lodges send key officers to receive training. Typically, each region schedules three or four NLS weekends annually, at geographically dispersed locations within the region.
  • National Lodge Adviser Training Seminar (NLATS): for adults, usually held in conjunction with an NLS and conducted by regions, on the role of advisers in the OA.

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