Scout Honor Societies


While just about everyone involved in the Boy Scout organization knows about the Order of the Arrow, many people don't know much about the "other" honor societies and honor programs that existed in various scout councils and camps throughout the country from 1914 through the present day. This website will attempt to provide information on this subject to whom ever has an interest in scoutings "lost history".

In the early days of the Boy Scouts of America many camps around the country had "honor camper" programs where a scout could progressively earn award patches. In the 1920's and 1930's a number of camps had programs where totems were stenciled on a scout's belt with paint as they became proficient in different skills. The growth and movement of the "Other" honor societies came about mostly by the movement of the council executives from one location to another as well as by word of mouth. The Toledo Area Council received many visitors through the early years to learn about Gimogash. Tipisa spread to Indiana and Florida from Michigan solely through the movement of council executives.

The ONLY honor societies/programs which I personally have verified are Tipisa in Michigan and Indiana as well as OOBADOSTOOM in Missouri. ALL others were supplied by other individuals so I cannot say with absolute certainty that information on them is correct. Let me repeat that I am relying on information supplied by other people on this list or have found information in lodge histories that I am relying on as being accurate.

The ideal situation is to have written documentation on them such as newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, lodge histories, etc. Going by peoples memories leaves a lot of room for error but sometimes that is all we have to go by. I hope to eventually scan in patches and other memorabilia from these societies at some point. Many of these honor societies issued patches, pins or other memorabilia which are highly sought after by collectors. It appears to me that that there were five major societies/programs that operated in multiple locations during the 1920's-1940's. They were Ku-Ni-Eh, Gimogash, Nani Ba Zhu, Firecrafters and WWW(Order of the Arrow). The majority of the "Other" societies/programs existed in one location although there were a few in two to five locations.

In 1935 there were 536 Scout Councils and only 81 Order of the Arrow Lodges in existence in the country. By 1950 there were still only 537 Scout Councils but 445 OA lodges had by then been chartered. During those years there were many of the "other" honor societies/programs that were converted into OA lodges.

Many honor societies lived on in different ways after they were converted to the OA. Some such as the Michigan Tipisa Society became a camp award system that could be earned. Some kept their ceremonies and blended them into the new OA lodge. Others chose the society name as their lodge name. There were a number of these such as Tonkawampus #16, Pokagon #110, Tahquitz #127, Ku-Ni-Eh #145, Gimogash #214, Mohawk #275, Yo-Se-Mite #278, Nani Ba Zhu #321, Tipisa #326, Nikiwigi #329, Braves of Decorah #381, White Feather #499 and Wincheck #534.

There are a number of groups that exist to this day. They are independent societies/programs. Some exist where there has never been an OA lodge and some co-exist with an OA lodge. Among them are Mic O Say in St. Joseph, Missouri since 1925 and Kanasas City, Missouri since 1929; Firecrafters in Crossroads of America Council (Indiana) since 1920; Tribe of Tahquitz in the Long Beach Council (California) since 1925; Tribe of Torqua at Camp Cherry Valley (California); Tribe of Quivira in Quivira Council (Kansas) since 1923; Tribe of Golden Eagle (Kansas) since 1989; and Nani Ba Zhu which was reactivated in Omaha (Nebraska) in 1990.

I would like to acknowledge the considerable help of Paul Myers, Bill Topkis and Dave Allen towards this project. Paul had collected information on over 70 groups and graciously shared it with me and that was the starting basis of this list. I have only tried to add to what he started and what has been added was through the efforts of many kind individuals.

As time permits I hope to add more information about these "other" societies/programs to this site. If you have information to share about what existed in your area before the OA or knowledge on any group not listed is asked to send me an email so that I can add it these pages to share with everyone. If you have additional information on a known group/program or feel that there are errors in the list PLEASE let me know!Thanks for visiting! Check back from time to time. Hopefully new things will be continually added.

David L. Eby

Material found on this page is the work of David L. Eby and used USSSP, Inc. by permission. This material may not be reproduced without the express permission of David L. Eby

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