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


Background

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."

Discussion

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. Female 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 because a female is personifying any particular principal.

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.

Optional Ceremonial Clothing

The use of American Indian clothing in OA ceremonies is discretionary on the part of each lodge. While understanding American Indian cultures will remain an important component of the OA’s programs and activities, individual lodges may elect to use alternative clothing in the conduct of their OA ceremonies. The following option is the only currently authorized alternative clothing for the conduct of OA ceremonies:

Complete field uniform: The complete field uniform of the Scout portraying the principal in the ceremony. Common uniforming is not required (i.e., having a Scouts BSA, Venturer, and Sea Scout in their respective field uniforms portraying separate characters is acceptable). An additional alternative clothing option for use in OA ceremonies is being explored. If approved, it will be communicated to lodges through the new membership policy transition site on the OA web site.

Each character and the team as a whole must be dressed consistent with the option chosen. The mixing of American Indian clothing with an alternative, either on an individual basis (e.g., Scout field uniform and Indian bonnet) or on a team basis (one character portrayed in American Indian clothing and another in Scout field uniform), is not authorized.

Dance Competition Clothing

Four female dance styles are being added to the list of dance styles currently in use for OA dance competitions. Once finalized, guidance on these dance styles will be communicated through the new membership policy transition site on the OA web site.

For lodges that are interested in doing advance research, the four styles being explored are:

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