Thoughts on Tradition

By Nick Digirolamo, 2003 National Chief

    The nature of the Order of the Arrow can be ascribed in many ways to the ideals that Lord Baden-Powell sought to nurture when establishing the Boy Scouts--to teach boys to appreciate the outdoors while remaining unselfish and courteous in their everyday lives. Dr. E. Urner Goodman envisioned a similar standard by creating an organization for youth who exemplified the spirit of Scouting. The Order of the Arrow was founded upon ideals dating even farther back, before the formation of the Scouting movement. The legend of our Order is the source from which we have derived many of our traditions throughout our history.

    Tradition has been an important aspect in the progress of the Order of the Arrow because it has provided a foundation upon which we could build. Some of the strongest roots of our traditions come from the American Indians. The Order of the Arrow puts a strong emphasis on American Indian culture and customs for this reason.

    The 2003 Order of the Arrow Indian Summer was a prime example of Arrowmen celebrating and learning about American Indian traditions by participating in ceremonies and American Indian activities throughout the week. Many Arrowmen who are involved in these facets of our order find themselves better able to comprehend the true meaning of why our organization exists.

    Ceremonial work has helped me to gain a better understanding of our Order. When I was a new Arrowman attending my first Lodge conclave, an older member of the Lodge approached me and asked if I would help out with a ceremony. I jumped at the opportunity to hang out with the older guys, and I found myself portraying Allowat Sakima later that night in the pre-Ordeal ceremony. I was not very prepared for the role and, admittedly, I was nervous about being the "little guy" in the midst of three seasoned ceremonialists. I was even more intimidated by the amount of candidates and brothers whose eyes were glued on me for the longest 3 minutes of my life, as I recited what lines I could recall from the script.

    After the candidates were sent off on their Ordeal and the ceremonial principals retired for the night, an older brother in my Lodge explained to me the impact I had made on the candidates to whom I had just spoken. He said, "You just explained to them why we are here, and they chose to continue; well done."

    Reflecting on the words that I said in that ceremony, I did not really understand what they meant or where they came from at the time. However, as the ceremony team inspired those who heard the words we spoke that night, I too was inspired to learn more about the ceremonies and the origins of the Order of the Arrow.

    I feel that the years I have spent becoming more familiar with ceremonies and American Indian culture have helped me come to realize the true meaning behind the traditions of the Order. For this reason, I would encourage every Arrowman to get involved with your Lodge's ceremonies and American Indian activities. If you are already involved in these areas, I urge you to invite another Arrowman to join you.

    The Order of the Arrow was founded with a vision based on tradition. It is now up to us to preserve the ideals given to us by our founders. We have many responsibilities as Arrowmen and as Scouts tasks to undertake and complete, events to plan and lead, goals to set and reach. In carrying out those responsibilities, let us not lose sight of the real reasons why we do what we do, the things of the spirit that our founders reminded us are so important. Be mindful of the true meaning of the Order and why we choose to remain unselfish in cheerful service.

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