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History of the Order of the Arrow

In 1915, E. Urner Goodman, was a newly hired field executive for the Philadelphia Council, and 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 program, Wimachtendienk ("Brotherhood" in the Lenape language), to recognize those Scouts best exemplifying those traits as an example to their peers.

They ultimately devised a program where troops chose, at the summer camp's conclusion, those boys from among their number who 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 helped Goodman research the traditions and language of the Lenni Lenape—also known as the Delaware—who had once inhabited Treasure Island.  The brotherhood of Scout honor campers with its American Indian overtones was a total success.

By 1921, Goodman had spoken to Scout leaders in surrounding states about the honor society resulting in a number of lodges being established by Scout councils in the northeastern United States. The name of the society was changed to Order of the Arrow, and in October 1921, Goodman convened the first national meeting of what was then called the "National Lodge of the Order of the Arrow" in Philadelphia—where Goodman was elected as Grand Chieftain. Committees were organized to formulate a constitution, refine ceremonial rituals, devise insignia, and plan future development.

History of Wihinipa Hinsa #113

Our Lodge was founded in 1938 and is affiliated with Bay Area Council #574. The English translation of Wihinipa Hinsa is a phrase derived from the language of the Dakota Nation.  It means "Bay Sunrise" which appropriately symbolizes the dawning of a new day,  brighter opportunities, a higher vision, and the cheerful spirit forever burning in the hearts and wills of true arrowman.

Our Lodge totem is the Sun Rising from the purifying water of the bay.

In 1955, Camp Karankawa was opened, offering a well-located camp consisting of 450 acres of heavily forested land, ideally suited to the needs of Scouting.

The next few years saw the physical development of the camp's facilities. In 1955, it was decided to build an Ordeal Ring to meet the requirements of the Order's ceremonies. A site was selected on the banks of the San Bernard River. It was reached by following a trail from the chapel area, winding along the banks of the San Bernard, crossing a temporary bridge and finally climbing a hill to enter the ceremonial area.

The altar was constructed of stones and a plaque was laid. This ceremonial area served the Lodge for the next 40 years. The temporary bridge ultimately required relocation. Over the years the Brazos River underwent several floods. Each flood required extensive work in removing sand and debris from the Ordeal Ring. The site was lost completely for about a three year period in the mid 1980's, after a very severe flood of the San Bernard River. In the late 1980's it was decided that something needed to be done about the temporary bridge. Each flood had continued to erode the banks to a point of becoming hazardous.

A plan was put forth by the Lodge to construct a new suspension bridge. Different ideas were discussed in raising the necessary capital to complete the project. One of which was to sell each of the planks on the bridge and have the names of the donor inscribed on them. Finally the Council Executive Board was approached and money was set aside for its construction. Work  began on the new bridge, but a problem immediately arose, it was impossible to get the needed heavy equipment to the site to complete the project.

These efforts were finally abandoned. It became increasingly necessary to make a decision on the future of the ring. In late 1994, a site was chosen for construction of a new Ceremonial Ring. Ideas were discussed and a decision was made to move forward with its construction. Through the efforts of several people, and donations of materials, the need for raising capital became unnecessary. During the summer of 1995 several work days were held, and the new ring was constructed. It was made of cement planks that had been donated to the Lodge. These planks were then covered with native stone. Finally the plaque from the old altar was moved to the new site and installed. During the construction phase of the new altar, the permanent smug pots, which had been installed years ago at the old altar were moved and relocated.

During the Fall Fellowship in September of 1995, dedication ceremonies were held at the new Ordeal Ceremonial Ring. All ex-Lodge Chiefs and Advisors were invited to attend.

 Evolution of the OA Sashes

By Donnie Stephens (Amended by A. Tirpak, Pack 120)

Perhaps the most recognizable mark distinguishing an Arrowman is the Order of the Arrow sash. Worn over the right shoulder with the official Scout uniform, the sash is rich in both symbolism and purpose. To the outside observer, the sash identifies a Scout as an Arrowman. To that Arrowman, the sash represents the obligation taken upon induction: to lead in cheerful service. The sash of the Order of the Arrow has a history as rich as the Order itself, from its earliest days at Treasure Island Scout Reservation to the present.

The first OA sashes looked much different than those of the present day, and even went by a different name. Early ceremonies referred to the sashes as arrow bands, which were black in color. Differing accounts suggest that either a white vertical stripe or a white arrow pointing over the right shoulder adorned the black sash. There are no original black sashes known to exist today. 

Replica of original black "band" with white stripe 1915

The earliest known photograph in existence depicting Arrowmen wearing sashes dates to a 1919 Treasure Island council fire. The photograph shows sashes worn on both the left and right shoulders of the Arrowmen in attendance. This is due to the fact that the 1918 Ritual for the Second Degree (Brotherhood) included the moving of the sash from the right shoulder to the left shoulder before the conclusion of the ceremony. A sash worn over the left shoulder was the official indicator of a Second Degree (Brotherhood) member. The color of the bands in the black and white photograph appears to be white, but the color of the arrow cannot be confirmed. 

First organizational meeting of the Grand Lodge, Camp Biddle, Oct. 7, 1921
A Pictorial History of Unami Lodge One and Information for its Members, 5th ed., p. 8

Another 1921 photograph from the Camp Biddle Rededication Ceremony at the formation of the grand lodge, the first national organization of the Order of the Arrow, depicts the Order’s founder Dr. E. Urner Goodman and co-founder Carroll A. Edson, adorning the Third Degree (Vigil Honor) bib-type sash. This sash consisted of a large triangle worn on the chest in the shape of a “fraternal bib.” Little else is known about the bib’s use.

The earliest sashes created by the newly established grand lodge were white wool-felt sashes with red wool-felt arrows sewn on to the white fabric. This sash was used by First Degree (Ordeal) and Second Degree (Brotherhood) members of the Order. Third Degree (Vigil Honor) members adorned a similar white sash with a wool-felt red triangle sewn on to the middle of the band. Three white arrows were sewn on to each of the sides of this red triangle. This symbol—a red triangle with three white arrows—is similar to the triangle found in the middle of the arrow on the Vigil Honor sash today. Variations of these sashes were used from 1921 to 1948.

In 1948, the process for making sashes changed so that instead of sewing a wool-felt red arrow on to the sash, the arrow could be silk-screened on to the sash. In particular, the sash of the Vigil Honor now consisted of sewing the large red felt triangle directly on to the Ordeal/Brotherhood sash. These sashes persisted up to 1950, when the decision was made that all sashes would be worn on the right shoulder. At this time, the bars were added to the Brotherhood sash to distinguish it from the Ordeal sash. It was also around this time that the large triangle on the Vigil Honor sash was shrunken to size so that it could fit on the sash itself. This simplified the manufacturing process since the Vigil Honor sash could be made through the same silk-screening process as the Ordeal and Brotherhood sashes. For the first time, three sashes existed to indicate the three levels of membership of the Order of the Arrow.

A change to the sashes in 1955 marked the end of the wool-felt, silk-screened arrows. Sashes were now manufactured using twill material and embroidery. The sash itself was made from two layers of material so that the embroidered arrow did not show on the opposite side. The only notable change between 1955 and 1988 was a change in the type of stitch used to secure the two layers of material together. 


Order of the Arrow sashes, 1922-55:

 Ordeal/Brotherhood sash from 1922-48

Vigil sash from [1934]-48

Ordeal/Brotherhood sash from 1948-50

Vigil sash 1948-51

Brotherhood sash 1950-[1954]

Vigil sash 1950-[1954]

Sashes 1 and 2 have red wool felt arrows sewn on a white felt sash. Sashes 3 through 6 have red arrows flocked on white felt. In 1955, sashes were made with red fully embroidered arrows on white cotton twill. In 1988, the National Supply Division experimented with iron-on arrows that were discontinued shortly thereafter.

1988 saw the introduction of sashes on which the arrow, Brotherhood bars and Vigil Honor triangle were ironed. These iron-on arrows, which peeled off when washed, were regarded as insufficient in quality.

Iron-on Brotherhood sash circa 1988-90


The embroidered twill sashes were re-instituted in 1990, and are still in use today.

The Order of the Arrow sash, just like the Order of the Arrow as a whole, has evolved over the past century into its current version. The sash, in whichever form it takes, will continue to identify and define the members of the Order of the Arrow for years to come.



Vigil Honor

100th Anniversary Commemorative Red Sashes
2015 NOAC