Order of the Arrow

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Order of the Arrow

“Scouting’s National Honor Society”

Founders:E. Urner Goodman and Carroll A. Edson

Founded: July 16, 1915
Membership: The OA has over 170,000 members located in
lodges affiliated with 300 local BSA councils.


The Order of the Arrow (OA) is the National Honor Society of the Boy Scouts of America. Membership is only available to Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, the adult leaders of Scouts and Varsity Scouts, and those nominated by their District.



“As Scouting’s National Honor Society, our purpose is to:

  • Recognize those campers who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Scout Law in their daily lives and through such recognition cause others to conduct themselves in a way that warrants similar recognition.
  • Promote camping, responsible outdoor adventure, and environmental stewardship as essential components of every Scout’s experience, in the unit, year-round, and in summer camp.
  • Develop leaders with the willingness, character, spirit and ability to advance the activities of their units, our Brotherhood, Scouting, and ultimately our nation.
  • Crystalize the Scout habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of leadership in cheerful service to others.”


The Order of the Arrow is an integral part of the council’s program. The Order’s service, activities, adventures, and training for youth and adults are models of quality leadership development and programming that enrich and help extend Scouting to America’s youth.

For nearly a century, their peers have honored those Scouts who “best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives” with membership in the Order of the Arrow. This recognition provides encouragement for others to live these ideals as well. The Order provides ways and means for its members to do more to assist their units and councils, and help them succeed in doing so.

In support of its vision as Scouting’s National Honor Society and an integral part of every council, the Order of the Arrow will further increase its service to Scouting.


The Order was founded by Dr. E Urner Goodman and Carroll A. Edson on July 16, 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 a 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 Boy Scouts of America.

In 1998, the Order of the Arrow was recognized as Scouting’s National Honor Society when it expanded its reach beyond camping to include a greater focus on leadership development, membership extension, adventurous programming, and broader service to Scouting and the community. Today, its service, activities, adventures, and training for youth and adults, are models of quality leadership development and programming that enrich, support, and help extend Scouting to America’s youth.




To become a member, a youth must be a registered member of a Scout Troop or Varsity Scout Team and hold the First Class rank. He must have experienced 15 days and nights of 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. Following approval by the Scoutmaster or Varsity team Coach, Scouts are elected to seek membership in the Order by their fellow unit members. Then, after completing an Ordeal experience, they become members of the Order of the Arrow.

Venturing Crews and Explorer Post may not hold elections. Lone Scouts can not become part of the Order of the Arrow.


Scout Troops or Varsity Scout Teams having more than 50 registered, active youth members may nominate an additional adult for every 50 registered, active youth, or fraction thereof. (As an example, a troop having 51 to 100 registered, active youth may nominate two adults each year if at least one youth has been elected.)

Adult selection is based upon their ability to perform the necessary functions to help the Order fulfill its purpose, and is not for recognition as an honor. Selected adult Scouters must be an asset to the Order because of demonstrated abilities, and must provide a positive role model for the youth members of the lodge. The camping requirements set forth for youth members must be fulfilled.


To become a member of the Order of the Arrow a Scout or Varsity Scout is chosen by a vote of the youths in his or her Troop or Team. This is a unique feature of the Order since the majority of those who select the candidates for this honor are not members of the lodge. Lodge members in the unit have a vote as well as nonmembers. In this way membership is controlled by the youths in their own units and not by those who are already Arrowmen.

After election, a Scout, Varsity Scout, or adult remains a candidate until completion of the Ordeal and Ordeal ceremony. If this period of candidacy exceeds one year, the candidate’s name is dropped and he or she no longer is a candidate. To become a candidate again, he or she must be reelected.

Membership Levels

The two membership levels (or “degrees”) of the OA are Ordeal and Brotherhood.


Ordeal sash

The induction process, the Ordeal, is the first step toward full membership in the OA. During this period the member is expected to strengthen his or her involvement in the unit and encourage Scout camping. As a reminder, the Guide to Safe Scouting states, “No secret organizations. The BSA does not recognize any secret organizations as part of its program. All aspects of the Scouting program are open to observation by parents and leaders.” Membership in the Order of the Arrow is not a secret; all members are free to acknowledge their membership. There is no secret about any of the OA’s aims or principles. The OA’s rules are available to the public, and meeting locations are clearly identifiable. Like many similar organizations, some of the OA’s internal affairs, such as ceremonies and passwords, are regarded as private matters for members only. Any parents, leaders, or other lodge members who are aware of what goes on in the ordeal or another ceremony should not generally share such information with prospective/regular members who have not yet gone through that event for themselves.


Brotherhood sash

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 of the Arrow.

Honors and Awards

Vigil Honor

After two years of service as a Brotherhood member, and with the approval of the National Order of the Arrow Committee, a youth or adult Arrowman may be selected to be recognized with the Vigil Honor for outstanding service to Scouting, their lodge, or the Order of the Arrow. This honor is limited to not more than one Arrowman for every 50 members registered with the lodge each year.

Under NO circumstances should tenure in Scouting or the Order of the Arrow be considered as reason enough for a Vigil Honor recommendation.

Vigil Honor sash

Distinguished Service Award

The Distinguished Service Award (DSA) is a service recognition award for those who have rendered distinguished and outstanding service to the OA on a sectional, regional, or national basis over a period of years.


An Order of the Arrow lodge is granted a charter from the National Council, BSA, upon annual application by the lodge’s local council. The OA lodge helps the local council provide a quality Scouting program through recognition of Scouting spirit and performance, youth leadership development, adventurous programming, financial support, and enhanced membership tenure.

A lodge pocket flap with universal arrow ribbon.


An Order of the Arrow section consists of lodges within a geographic area of the region. Once each year, representatives of the lodges in the section come together for a conclave to share in fellowship, program ideas, training, and skills development. 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 the youth leader of the region elected by the section chiefs for one year. This election is held in conjunction with the annual OA planning meeting where the national chief and national vice chief are also elected by the section chiefs and the next year’s program of emphasis is planned. The region Order of the Arrow chairman and professional staff adviser are adults appointed by the region director.

National Chief and Vice Chief

The national chief and national vice chief serve as the top youth leaders of the Order, responsible not only for providing youth leadership to the national program of emphasis, but serving with the four region chiefs, on the national committee to provide youth involvement in decisions affecting the program nationally. These national officers also oversee the national leadership seminars.

National OA Committee

The national Order of the Arrow Committee is a group of veteran Arrowmen, appointed by the National OA Chairman, to oversee the national OA program. The professional adviser is the OA Director, a staff member of the national BSA Division.



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