Boy Scouts Robert Myers and Daniel Durham of Troop 651 were selected along with others for the Order of the Arrow during an evening at Camp Raven Knob recently.
The Order of the Arrow is a significant distinction indicating the confidence of the scout’s peers.
“Being in the OA was an honor itself but receiving the individual honor of being tapped in…To think all those young men voted for me,” said Chapter Advisor David Casstevens, who was still visibly impacted by the moment from his own past.
The OA is more than a popularity contest and recipients must not just exemplify basic scout virtues, but must excel in them. “Members are elected from within their units and recognized as those who best live the ideals of brotherhood, cheerfulness, and service,” according to the official website which describes the order as, “the national honor society of the Boy Scouts of America.”
“Arrowmen are known for maintaining camping traditions and spirit,” states the website, “promoting year-round and long-term resident camping, and providing cheerful service to others,” which includes maintaining and improving site like Camp Raven Knob, national parks, and other similar service activities.
“We worked on the camp and we had a blast,” said Casstevens. “When you have a bunch of guys working together like that, you make a lot of good progress and great memories.”
Those memories come from more than just the service done through the Order of the Arrow, but the process of passing through the three OA levels from the Ordeal through the Vigil. “The Ordeal when you first come in is like a test,” explained Alex Whittaker.
Initially, a new member is tapped, or called on. Afterward, “You go out through the woods to a ceremony that’s a hit-you-in-the-face moment,” he said, after which the prospective Arrowman spends the night alone in the woods. “I’ll never forget that.”
This Ordeal is undertaken after a general ceremony where other campgoer’s witness the OA’s tribute to America’s native roots. Although the Boy Scouts have been criticized for appropriating Native American imagery and customs, the respect for the culture is of utmost importance to the organization, according to officials.
In a statement from Boy Scouts of America dated June 24, 2009, the organization cautions members, “The Native American Indian reference must be historically accurate and serve a descriptive — rather than evocative — purpose.” It also serves to reinforce pride and respect in the culture.
“The outfits and dances are authentic,” said Laurel District Director for the Old Hickory Council of the Boy Scouts Kevin Cheek, who was able to share a variety of information on the correlations between the OA ceremony and Native American traditions. “They have to research everything, every little detail,” he said.
Sharing such similar values as stewardship of natural resources and responsible camping and other outdoor adventures as well as community service and personal responsibility within a group, the Native American songs and dances enhanced by detailed costumes prepared the initiates for the honor they were receiving.
“When you get into the Order of the Arrow, you utilize the skills [learned as a Boy Scout] to become a youth leader,” explained Cheek. “The OA is completely youth-led. The adults are just here to advise and supervise.”
This not only leads to scouts continuing participation after aging out, but contributes to characteristics that will be useful throughout life. “[OA] allows you to sharpen those skills to prepare you to be a better citizen,” stated Cheek.
The first Order of the Arrow ceremony took place on July 16, 1915, at the Boy Scouts of America Treasure Island Camp of the Philadelphia Council and was founded by Dr. E. Urner Goodman and Carroll A. Edson. During the several weeks of summer when troops from throughout the region gather for a week at a time at Camp Raven Knob, the Order of the Arrow Ceremony is held each Wednesday evening.
For more information about the Order of the Arrow, Boy Scouts of America or Camp Raven Knob, go to www.scouting.org.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Twitter @TBeanieTaylor.