Our Lodge has been struggling in numbers and participation for a few years now. We recently started looking at how many of our Council's Scoutmasters were members of the OA and noticed that only 31% are members of the OA. I was wondering if any other Lodges tracked this info and what their Scoutmaster membership rate might be and if anyone had any strategies on how to increase the number. My personal belief is that there is a direct correlation between the lack of participation in the OA in our council and the small % of Scoutmasters who are members of the OA. Any thoughts are appreciated.
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- Mar 2011
Scoutmasters Not Members of OATags: None
I don't know the number in our Lodge, but it is something I address as a Chapter Adviser when we do annual elections. Since I took the position a couple of years ago, I've doubled the number of troops in my district that allowed us to come do an election from 2009 to 2010. We still have some who flat refuse and say "we don't do OA" or "our boys aren't interested". We have some who say they don't have any qualifying candidates either. For many of these troops, the SM is not a member of the OA. They don't understand it and in some cases, they have no interest in understanding it. One SM I talked to last year confessed to me that he was in over his head, was overwhelmed, he only took the position because his son loved Scouts and no one else would do it and that he just didn't have time to "add" OA to his schedule. It's frustrating. It's also shocking how many troops there are out there with only 5 or 6 kids on the roster and an SM and one ASM. Not saying that they can't deliver a quality program, but it sure makes it harder. My standard pitch to them is that if they are not a member of the OA, then they as SM NEED to be the adult nominee from their troop for this year. They need to be a member so they have an understanding and can support it in their unit. Still, I have some who just don't want to. We've toyed with putting on some sort of dog and pony show for SM's to educate them, but getting them to actually come is another story. We did election training at our Chapter meeting last month and invited all the District SM's to come so they would have a clue when we show up to do their election. Out of 20+, we had 1 show up.
Sorry if I sound negative. I feel your frustration and wish I had answers to give you, but I'm seeking the answers too.
Breaney, your lodge is not alone. Many are struggling.
I doubt if the SM OA membership is the primary issue. Frankly, OA has slipped in many way over the years in terms of prestige, relevance, and cheerful service.
First was the change from the brotherhood of honor campers to a generic honor scout/scouter society.
Second, cheerful service has been replaced with an inward focus on fun indoor conclaves/events, lodge flap worship, strutting around wearing a sash, and ego inflation in general.
The key to fixing the OA can be found by reading any old OA manual.
- Jul 2007
And from one of those old manuals, pre 1975 or so, put the honor of being elected back in it by having limitations on how many each year. When a large troop who had 25 webeloes join two years before has most eligible at once, and is able to "elect?" them ALL, it takes away most of the so called honor and prestige. Granted, they still have to go through the Ordeal, but that too has had much of its spirit removed by restrictions and the general climate of today. JMO
We don't do OA. We do not invite OA to "educate" us. We know what OA is and we choose to not participate.
When I am asked about OA, I simply say, "We don't do OA." I have learned from experience that there is no point in arguing with or about the OA.
The issue is cultural appropriation.
- Feb 2011
David CO - Would you mind explaining what you mean by "cultural appropriation"? I'm not going to try to change your mind at all, but as a chapter adviser it would help me to understand objections some scouters have to the organization.
- Sep 2010
You know how some people think the Washington Redskins football team should change its name and logo? I think it's something like that.
I haven't heard that the people whose culture we're appropriating are complaining about the OA. As far as I know, the OA is on good terms with local Native American tribes, at least Deer Run seems to be on good terms with them and they're an exclusively OA group. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
- Aug 2008
You would be surprised at the number of folks who are upset with the OA, and to be honest, not without just cause. I am a dancer, and got my start as a dancer b/c of the OA. But I do not dance at just OA events, nor have I learned form just OA dancers. So I have learned about some of the challenges.
Sometimes OA dancers are very disrespectful, they think they know it all, and even have broken customs and traditions on the powwow circuit. I have had OA dancers, one such group surprised the heckout of me b/c they are supposedly one of the best lodges in the nation, remove blankets from benches that were not their own, sit on blankets that were not their own, and were rude and discourteous to folks in food lines during breaks in the dancing "becasue we're dancers!" when there were not only other dancers in line, but also judges.
I have also seen where OA dancers have decided to do their own thing. Despite offers for help, despite being told by both the Native American community and the lodge, they decide they want to do their own thing, like making up their own dances and dance styles. It is embarrassing as an Arrowman and insulting to our powwow hosts.
Another thing is that Native American Dance culture is alive and active. Some things worn in the early 2000s you may not see today, let alone somethign from the 1960s. But I see a lot of adults teaching and dancing Old Style and encouraging their Arrowman to do that style. But do you know howmany old style dancers I've seen besides Arrowman? 1 and he was an elder who after talking for a long time with him decided he was goign to wear his messy bustle and some of his Old Style regalia because our conversation brought back some great memories.
Also our ceremonies and regalia worn are causes for concern. Our ceremonies come from a time when NA culture was forbidden, and they were not even considered citizens and allowed to vote. Thankfully overtime that has changed, but folks are not as knowledgable and respectful of that fact, nor our ceremonies. How many times have you seen folks forget lines, or worse, read them from a scroll, or even a podium? Also A lot of lodges, even ones with good AIA folks, have regalia that is really a carciture of what was actually worn. It's more 'Hollywood" Indian than actual regalia based upon actual research.
desertrat77 - "Second, cheerful service has been replaced with an inward focus on fun indoor conclaves/events, lodge flap worship, strutting around wearing a sash, and ego inflation in general."
In general, I disagree. I don't think you can point to those things and say they are happening across the board in all Lodges. In some, sure. The conclaves and fellowships I've attended have only used "indoors" for dining. Everything else is outdoors. Do we have lodge flap nuts? Yes, two adults who preach the virtues of patch trading to mostly deaf ears. Strutting around wearing a sash? We teach that the sash is only to be worn at OA functions. Ego inflation? The kids I know who actually participate in my Chaper and Lodge pretty much get the idea of service. The fact that they are doing both unit scouting AND OA is because they are dedicated, not for glory or fame.....since most kids won't give the OA a second thought.
Thanks for the reply. Our decision to not participate in OA goes back to around 1987. At that time, we owned and used a campground next to a reservation.
Because we had the only sandy beach on the lake, local boys would often drop by and join us in our waterfront activities. Being good neighbors, they would often reciprocate by inviting us to some of their activities on the reservation.
After having observed and experienced some of the everyday modern life as well as the authentic traditional life of tribal culture, our boys quickly lost interest in the cartoonish stuff at Scout camps and OA.
What a shame and lost opportunity. Many of us seek to foster relationships with Native Americans so we can be as authentic as possible and honor their culture and traditions.(This message has been edited by sr540beaver)
OA may not be afflicted by such negative things in your lodge. But as a military guy who moves alot, and having been associated with OA since the mid '70s, there is a trend and it ain't good.
The inward focus, patch and sash mania, ego, etc.--that's what I see, and talking with other scouters, I'm not alone in my observations. Again, I move for a living and what I see isn't restricted to a particular lodge or even region.
There are squared away lodges, yes. We can be thankful for those.
But overall, I don't detect the overwhelming desire for folks to belong to OA. Not anywhere close to the levels of the past. What's the point? What does OA provide? The cheerful service is largely absent. Wouldn't be surprised to see OA fade away completely in the coming decades.
(This message has been edited by desertrat77)
- Jun 2005
Hi David - Just curious, has the question of whether to become involved with the OA been revisited by the current membership of your unit, within the past 25 years or so?
But I see your point about the cartoon-ey imitation of Native American culture that the OA can promote. I guess I don't see it as offensive, per se... just silly. And I think that's probably a big component as to why the OA is in decline. Most Scouts just aren't interested in the imitation Indian costume and dance routine.
That said, I guess I still don't understand why you would refuse to at least present it as an option to your Scouts. It seems like one poor experience 25 years ago isn't a very good reason for refusing your Scouts access to the program today. Personally I don't care for the program very much, and your Scouts may not either - but why not at least give them the opportunity?
On the positive side, I've seen lodges cooperate respectfully with the Native American community. Rather than misappropriate heritage, the OA can actually enhance and promote it with the blessing of the Native Americans in their area.
Agreed, cartoonish/hollywood Native Americanism has no upside.
Hi. No, I don't think we want to revisit the issue. OA membership has become one of the things that some Scouts consider when choosing a unit in our community.
We don't do OA, but others do.
We don't feel that we are denying our Scouts access to OA. We are denying agressive OA recruiters access to our Scouts.