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Guidance Regarding the Use of American Indian Clothing and Symbols in Order of the Arrow Ceremonies, Programs, and Activities


The recent change in OA membership requirements authorizing the election of female youth to the Order of the Arrow, together with questions that have arisen relative to the proper use of American Indian clothing and symbols in Order of the Arrow ceremonies and activities, make it advisable to issue guidance to lodges on this subject.

Basic Policy

The use of American Indian clothing and symbols have been a component of Order of the Arrow programming since its inception. While not stated explicitly, the underlying policy in the use of such clothing and symbols remains: "American Indian clothing and other regalia used in OA ceremonies and programs must be respectful of the American Indian cultures we are emulating."


The following additional guidance is provided to assist lodges in adhering to the above policy:

Determining What Is Respectful

It is the lodge’s responsibility to ensure the proper application of the above policy. In many cases lodges have resources within the lodge and or relationships with local tribes that enable them to satisfy themselves they are in compliance with this policy. In other cases, lodges may need to refer to available published resources or seek out a new local contact to assist in making their determination.

In cases where lodges find themselves unable to determine their compliance with the above policy, the National OA Committee has identified resources within each region to aid lodges in making this determination. The following individuals are available for that purpose (contact with any of these individuals is restricted to adult members only):

Northeast Region:

Southern Region:

Central Region:

Western Region:

Female Youth in OA Ceremonies

Ceremonial principals. All youth are eligible for all principal positions in OA ceremonies, including that of the chief of the fire. The names of the principals used in OA ceremonies need not be changed based on the gender of the youth.

Ceremonial clothing: Female clothing is to follow the basic policy stated above. In many tribes females may wear much the same clothing as their male counterparts. In other cases it would be inappropriate. The lodge must make the determination as to which is the case. In cases where female clothing differs from that of males, appropriate female clothing consistent with the policy stated earlier should be worn. Doing so does not change the principal being portrayed in the ceremony.

Approved Attire for Order of the Arrow Ceremonies

Guidance for approved attire for Order of the Arrow ceremonies can be viewed in the Inductions Portal.

Dance Competition Clothing

Four female dance styles have been added to the list of dance styles currently in use for OA dance competitions.

  • Women’s Northern Traditional
  • Women’s Southern Traditional
  • Women’s Jingle Dress
  • Women’s Fancy Shawl

Guidance on these dance styles will be incorporated into the next update of the Field Operations Guide. For those wishing to begin preparations for upcoming dance competitions, please consult the new guidelines.