Order of the Arrow Lodge History Center


By David L. Eby, Running Waters District Historian

The Tecumseh Lodge was chartered on January 25, 1946. Curiously, they didn't have their induction ceremony until April 28, 1946 and they did their own. There was no outside lodge that came in to do it for them. Archie Schingek, the Lenawee District executive read the rituals to them. The original members were Douglas Liedel, Donald Burkett, Gerald Parker, Robert Miller, Jerry Syfert, Don Sywassink, Merlen Segraves, Harold Walker, John Moyer, Duane Bellmore and adults Claude Gee and Wilbur Holmes. Whether some of these were part of the Tipisa group is unknown or if they were all elected in. It is known that the Tipisa members were allowed to join at the onset and at least one (Burdette Peebles) did even though he is not listed on the group roster. It is possible they did a previous induction ceremony for the Tipisa members but there is no record to confirm this. Alvin E. Jones who was the Wolverine Council Executive from 1942-1965 was the lodge founder. I have had indepth interviews with several early members of the lodge who were part of it during the 1940's and 1950's including Mr. Jones' son, who became a lodge member in 1947 and was the lodge medicine man. Mr. Jones and three of the charter boy members attended the 1946 NOAC held at Chanute Field in Illinois.

All the people I talked to stated in seperate interviews that the summer camp staff of Camp Kanesatake (Wolverine Council's camp from 1926-80) ran the lodge. Induction ceremonies were held on parents night each week of camp and the ordeal was held on weekends at the camp. This remained the status quo throughout the 1940's and 1950's. The induction ceremony consisted of having all troops in camp sitting at the base of CK hill with all parents at the top looking down. CK hill was a large steep hill overlooking Washington Lake in the camp and there was a letter C with a K placed inside the letter C with both being trenched and cemented into the hill. The letters stood about forty feet high and was a landmark in the area since the summer of 1945. There was an Indian mound at the top of the hill overlooking the lake. The flagpole was in the center of the mound. When they dug the hole for the pole they found an Indian skeleton. As the boys sat in silence an "Indian" at the top of the hill shot down a real flaming arrow into a prepared campfire in their midst (it was guided by a string in the 1960's) and at this point other Indians on the other side of the lake canoed across and landed in front of scouts, then circled them in silence tapping on the shoulder all who had been elected. Those selected then were placed in the canoes and went back across the lake with their Indian guides, where they had their fingers pricked to become blood brothers with silence being maintained throughout. One person I interviewed said he was so scared he fainted when the needle appeared. This induction was later changed to having an arrow broken (a tapout) over a candidates chest.

Lodge Patches & Neckerchiefs

I have in my possession two lodge membership lists from 1955 and 1956 with the 1955 list having an attachment which lists the "Requirements for Brotherhood Candidates". On the bottom of this page is a typed note which says "O-A patches will be here for our Fall Fellowship - @ .50". Based on this info 1955 was the the time of the original issue of the first lodge flap. There were no odd shapes issued earlier. The original flap as well as the original red & white silkscreened neckerchief (which were issued together) were both issued WITHOUT the lodge number 332. A different lodge member from that time that I interviewed told me that when they designed the flap they were unaware that they were supposed to include the lodge number. When they reordered they corrected this and included the number on both the flap and neckerchief. Based on the number of members in the lodge in 1955 (there were 34 total) and the approximate time the second flap was introduced (about 1959-60) I believe there was about 240 each of the original flaps and neckerchiefs produced as that was a loom run then.

During its tenure the lodge issued four flaps, the original unnumbered twill cutedge, the corrected numbered twill roundedge, the fully embroidered copy of the second issue, and a seperate brotherhood issue which was a white embroidered flap with an Indian on it. All except the brotherhood issue were of the same design, a lone white tepee sitting on a tall yellow hill with a green shamrock (cloverleaf) on the front of the hill.

I am aware of no variations of the first or second issue flaps but there are variations of the third and brotherhood issues. The brotherhood issue has one flap where the indian wears a red necklace with an arrow hanging from it and a red belt and I have another where there is no necklace or belt. On the embroidered issue I have three varieties where the size of the tepees and the widths of the arrow shaft are different and the forth variety has an exceptionally large tepee, a longer arrow, and is plastic back (threads). The plastic back was the final issue of the lodge. There were six seperate neckerchiefs issued. The original unnumbered silkscreen, the corrected numbered silkscreen, the 1965 Fall Fellowship, the 1967 conclave, and two versions of the final issue (the brotherhood issue) which was the only one to have a patch attached to it. One version had an embroidered red round edge on the border of the neckerchief and the other had red cloth piping sewed on the border. The patch on each also had a difference in the thickness of the letters. There is a measurable difference in the length of the arrow on the two patches. There were clearly two loom runs.

To know the history of the lodge name and flap design you have to know some history of the camp where it was based, Camp Kanesatake. The camp was located near the intersection of US 12 and M-50, two of the oldest roads in the midwest. One was an Indian path used by Indians traveling from Lake Erie to Chicago and the other an Indian path used by the Mississippi Valley tribes who came East each year to hold powwow. There is an old Indian smoke tower buried in the center of the original camp where the great Indian Chief Tecumseh, met with members of his tribe. The camp sat on top of one of the high hills in the area and the name Kanesatake is an Indian term meaning "Camp On A Hill". If you look at all the Tecumseh flaps except the brotherhood issue you see a lone tepee sitting on top of a hill or a "camp on a hill". The flap design is a cryptic message telling you that the lodge is based at the "Camp on a Hill" (Camp Kanesatake) and was named after a famous chief from the area (Chief Tecumseh). The hilly region of Michigan that the camp was in is called the Irish Hills which is why there is a shamrock on the hill with the tepee at the top. The combined three figures of the hill, tepee, and cloverleaf give you the geographical location and camp name.

The lodge was merged in 1973 with the Munhacke Lodge #88 to form the Allohak Lodge #88. The camp was sold in 1981, and the Wolverine Council name disappeared several years ago, all victims of mergers.

Prior to the OA lodge, the camp had an honor campers award from 1926- 1930 called the "Powderhorn Award". One scout per week received this award. It was a leather patch very similar to the Buckskin Campers award that Dan Beard used at his camps. Considering that George Crossland (the executive during the 1920's) was a schoolteacher in Indiana near one of Beard's camps before he became a scout professional, the patch design may be more than a coincidence. In 1930 the "TIPISA (Order of the Red Lodge) Honor Campers Society was created at the camp. It had many similarities to OA in that it limited its membership, they were elected by peers (two scouts per two week camping period), there was an ordeal with twenty four hours of silence, there was a Council Fire ceremony with members dressed as Indians and each member had a membership patch given to them. Each member was given an Indian name as well as a real Eagle feather to wear at Council fires. Tipisa lasted until January 25, 1946 when it was converted directly to the Order of the Arrow Tecumseh Lodge #332. All members of Tipisa were allowed to convert membership into the OA if they participated in the OA ceremony. Many chose not to but some did. The ceremony pieces and rituals of Tipisa were used in the OA ceremonies at the camp for many years after. A campfire was one where the focus was on scouting. A "Council Fire" was special with every bit of it focused on the American Indian heritage. It was the high point of the camp session.

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