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OA award significance lost on Scouts

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I am not an OA member so forgive me if I get any terminology wrong here.


Our council OA lodge sponsors a summer camp award. It is available to both Cub Scouts and adults (leaders and parents) and I assume it is available for Boy Scouts as well. It can only be earned at summer camp through full participation in camp programming/activities, along with completing voluntary service at camp and attending chapel services.


The camp makes a big deal about these awards and typically all the Cub Scout Packs will complete the award, if for no other reason than so their boys will not feel left out at the final campfire when the awards are presented. (So there is a bit of pressure to go through the program and buy the patches to be presented.)


My concern is in how the awards are presented. As a Boy Scout myself I understand the significance of the OA and the inclusion of Native American symbolism into ceremonies (and into the Scouting program in general). Therefore, I take the time to try to explain to the boys what the OA is all about, and how the award will be presented. Also, the camp director explains the service award and what it means.


However, nothing can really prepare the boys for how the award is presented. Typically a few "braves" and a "chief" come out of the woods, or across the lake in a canoe, in a solemn ceremony.


Now, the ceremonies have always been well done; however...boys ages 8-11 really don't "get it." From the boys' perspective, suddenly they see their counselors (OA members), who they had been working with for several days, now dressed in loincloths and with native American headgear. And the ceremony typically involves staring in to the boys' eyes, or something to that effect, as a final "look into their character."


Well, as I said, the Cubs just don't get it. And some of them have a hard time containing their laughter at a group of nearly-naked older boys "acting like Indians" in front of them and nose-to-nose. Sorry for the terminology, but that's really how it seems to me, and based on the feedback I've gotten from parents.


I think these awards are worthwhile for the service and spiritual aspects they entail, but I think the presentation needs to be rethought, or at least the boys better prepared.


Am I all wet? If not, is this worth mentioning? And if so, to whom?

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Maybe you might mention all of this to the Program Director, so whoever is running the ceremony can preface it with an explanation


Our Cub Scout camp is a little away from the Boy Scout Camp.

It used to be that the second year Webelos Scouts spent their last night at camp staying with a Troop.

This was also the night when the OA had their tap out/call out ceremony.

I'd taken a group of Webelos Scouts to camp and after a parade of flags the little guys lined up for the OA ceremony.

Being the nice, kind, thoughtful fellow that I am! I'd threatened them all to stand still and not say a word.

Sure enough as soon as the ceremony started I felt my kid tugging on my arm.

I gave him the look and a shush.

The next tug, he got a "Don't say a word." Along with the look.

The third time I gave up and asked him what he wanted.

It seems one of the Indians, with his face painted blue had given OJ a long stare. It must have scared the bejebbers out of him.

When I asked OJ "What's the matter?"

His reply was "Dad I just peed my pants!"

Brotherhood of cheerful service?

Maybe in my case it ought to have been the Fatherhood with deaf ears?


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I understand your observations. I am the Advisor for our Chapter Ceremonial Team. We are responsible for Call-Out and Arrow of Light Ceremonies. One of several points I make to the Team, is when performing the Arrow of Light Ceremony, usually at a combination Blue and Gold/AOL/graduation program, you must maintain your character. Not only will you be challenged by the younger Cubs (Tigers, Wolfs, and Bears)with their laughing and silly comments, but their younger brothers and sisters that also attend these programs. I simply ask them to present a strong ceremony, stay in character, accept the challenge of self control, remember that you are representing your Lodge, and most of all, have fun. Our guys do a great job, and I'm always very proud of them. And after the ceremony, these younger kids and Cubs, are the first to ask me if they can have their picture taken with the Team.

I feel that even though these younger Scouts may not "get it" at this stage. The OA is laying the foundation for these future Boy Scouts, and their possible involvement in the Order of the Arrow.


Just my thoughts,



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The Cubs that don't "get" an Indian ceremony have never seen one. Most likely they have never had any kind of "dress up" ceremony in their Pack. Their Pack might not do any kind of ceremonies at all, and be strictly a baggie and handshake bunch.


On top of that, young boys just act silly. Given any incentive at all. Or none.


This does not make the ceremony wrong, or to complicated. It is a ceremony, and while it is supposed to be serious, it is also supposed to be FUN!


A bit of an explanation of the ceremony in advance, along with an admonition that a "Cub Scout gives goodwill", should be enough. If any Cub snickers just ignore him, or give him "The Look".


Nothing more is needed.

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I think it may be an age thing. At the OA campfire this year at camp, the crowd was as well behaved as I have seen. It was nice. The callout was respectfully done, and the speakers explained as much as they could to the audience.


If the boys are laughing and carrying on, it may just be that they are not ready for such an event. Setting up the stage for them may not quell the ants in their pants.


I wonder if your OA event should be only with Boy Scouts?

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Could be a generational thing too.


We are a couple generations removed from the era when Western movies were popular.


A couple years ago, I was watching a cowboy movie with my eldest daughter. It wasn't a famous one, but a standard issue movie with all the usual plot devices.


My daughter had a bunch of questions--what are they doing? Who is such and such character? To me, someone raised on the Western genre, I found it ho-hum. But it was quite interesting and new to her.


All that to say, many of the cubs may have never seen Native American in any setting, be it a stereotypical movie role or a more historically accurate realm.


Solution: not sure...even with an explanation, the OA members may still seemed like a comical costume team to the cubs. Not the effect desired.

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A "look into their character"? Really? For a Cub Scout award that is earned for doing a bunch of fun stuff? The ceremony sounds a little bit over the top, personally. I've never even seen that amount of deadly seriousness done for the AOL. No wonder the Cubs crack up. It sounds very out of line with everything they've been doing for the week.


On a general note, ceremonies seem to bring out the absolute worst in people in Scouting. I have experienced too many cereemonies and read far too many scripts that are overwrought, overwritten, preachy and pompous. We don't need a blessed ceremony with deep symbolism and a holier-than-thou message for every little teensy award, folks!

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The OA members did a nice job staying in character. Their trip across the water in the canoe while we sang was very impressive.


But, no matter how many times the boys have seen or done performances, nothing really prepares them for a loincloth wearing trio of teenage boys with headdresses, nose to nose, no matter how much you explain beforehand. I had a similar experience with camp last year but this year was worse, perhaps because it was not as dark. Most boys were smiling and the camp counselors had to fan out to keep the most giggly in line.


I think the meaning of the ceremony is totally lost on the boys and it would be much more meaningful for them to be called by name and recognized for what the award represents. But as I said I am not OA so I am speaking from an uninformed position, just looking for opinions.

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Little fellows are really strange animals.

Just when you think that they don't understand or that something is above them.

Several months or years later they turn around and let you know that they not only remember what went on, but will astound you with how much they got from it all.

Never underestimate a boy.


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Well to be consistent, if there is a significance, it's lost to the non-Scout parents as well.


I personally find the ceremonies to be offensive. I did not like the constant Native American references in Cubs either.



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You might try not dressing them solely in loincloths. Sure, that's accurate for some tribes, but not all. Try "breechcloth and leggings" which is basically pants under a loincloth. I don't know about what tribal members wear out where you live (since, again, tribal customs were not in any way uniform across the US), but for the tribes down here in Southern CA, most wear more clothes than a simple loincloth while engaging in ceremonial dances.


Tell them what's going to happen so that they aren't surprised/scared. Tell them that it's a solemn ceremony that you've all put together and that they will stare at the kids to "look into their character" and that the kids should just stare ahead and basically ignore it.

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