December 3rd, 2014


I Have Seen the Arrow

Memories of the Order of the Arrow at Camp Wapehani

Submitted by Art Collins (Geschitehen)
Upon the 100th Anniversary of the Order of the Arrow

When I was a boy, Scout camp was the highlight of my entire year. I couldn’t wait to go to camp with Spencer’s Troop 95. I attended five years as a camper (1965-1969), and then served two years on staff (1970-71). Those were the last years for Wapehani as a Council camp; I helped close her down. If Scout camp was the highlight of my year, then Thursday night’s OA Callout ceremony was the highlight of the week at camp. It was solemn and impressive and made its mark on everyone who participated.

We boys not yet eligible for membership in the Order didn’t really understand what it was all about, but we longed to be in the know. We used to ask what “WWW” stood for on all the lodge symbols. “Wapehani Wild Women” is one of the answers we were told. At Thursday supper, all the Arrowmen wore their sashes. As evening approached, we non-Arrowmen were confined to our tents, stripped to the waist, with a blanket ready to throw over our right shoulders. We were warned we had to be silent throughout the evening until the next morning. The Arrowmen in camp, meanwhile, stayed away from the campsites, preparing to dress up as Indians and help conduct the ceremony.

As we lay in our bunks waiting for the guides to come, we would whisper-talk. Nerves were on edge. Eventually, we would hear bells, worn on the ankles of a torch-bearing runner. The runner, dressed in breechclout and moccasins, would throw open our tent flaps and call out, “Prepare to follow in silence!” then run on to the next campsite. We emerged from our tents and were placed in line by Arrowmen guides and brought to the entrance of our campsite. There, eventually, we would be picked up and joined to the line of campers led by the Guide of the Lodge and his helpers, and all of us would move out in silence as we went from campsite to campsite.

Finally, we stood on the dam. We were stopped, turned to face the lake, and our necks were straightened if our eyes were straying too much. A flaming arrow (an arrow with a sparkler attached) was shot out over the lake. From the far end of the lake, an answering arrow was fired from a sheltered cove. And then three canoes, with standing figures in full costume, began to cross the lake: the Chief, the Medicine Man, the Guard. The Chief began to sing, his voice carrying clear across the lake in the dark. It was heart-stoppingly beautiful.

And what was the Chief singing? Well, he was chanting names. So Aka Gha Gwa, he began – the name of our lodge. Wimachtendienk, Wingolauchsik, Witahemui – the name of the Order, though we didn’t know that. Then he chanted all the names of the lodges in our Area (Section), followed by the name of our camp (Wapehani) and the names of all our campsites (names, by the way, which are still used as the names of the campsites at Maumee Scout Reservation). After that, he would chant the names of all the Vigil Honor members that he knew were attending that ceremony. Then he would start again, from the top. It usually took a little over twice through to reach the hither shore. He would pass right before us along the dam and land between the dam and the OA Circle.

Sometime around 1970, shortly after the Central Indiana Council merged with several other Councils to become Crossroads of America, we received a delegation of staff members from Ransburg Reservation. They were all Firecrafters, but their Council now having merged with Councils that used the Order of the Arrow, they were there in our camp to learn what this OA stuff was all about. It was a cordial visit, but at the end of the Chief’s song as he came to shore that evening was an unfamiliar name that only some ears could catch: No-Minisinos-Need-Apply.

Once the other three ceremonial team members were on land, they quickly took their places in the Circle, while the canoeists withdrew. We were abruptly turned to the right and marched off behind the Guide, who was stopped at the entrance of the Circle by the Guard. The two greeted each other with resounding taps on the shoulder, in the traditional patterns.

A lot has been said about what tap-outs used to be like. Nobody thought of being hit by “Indians” in a ceremony as child abuse, even though it could sting -- a lot -- and leave a mark. Most Chiefs, however, knew to cup their hands so as to inflict more noise than pain when tapping out a candidate. The real slug-fest was between the ceremonial team members. One night when I was on staff, I was playing Guard to another fellow’s Guide. We cordially detested each other, and without breaking character or otherwise showing anything out of the ordinary, we fully attempted to knock the bejeezus out of each other.

After we had been admitted to the Circle, the Guide led us around until we were spread around it in two long arcs, open to the east and the west. The four main figures then came together in the middle and began to prepare for the ceremony. The Medicine Man shot flaming arrows to the four quarters, to the sky and to the earth, as the Chief called out the salutations. Then, those arrows were answered by a flaming arrow of a different sort. Stretching from the middle of the gigantic fire lay in the middle of the Circle was a steel cable, anchored in the treetops on the eastern side. A steel pipe section wrapped in burlap soaked in “Scout water” was up in the treetops being held by a Scout in a hidden seat. When the salutations were over, he lit that torch and let it slide down the wire, which was all but invisible in the dark. It looked like a lightning bolt from heaven in answer to the ceremonial team’s invocation.

The fire began to burn. While it got going, two runners in breechclouts took short-handled torches and began to run around the circle in opposite directions. One’s course took him behind the arc of campers to the left and in front of the arc of campers to the right, while the other’s course took him behind the right arc and in front of the left arc. Each time they crossed in the open space to east and west, they would switch their torches to their new outside hands. Three times they ran, then ditched their short-handled torches for long torches, taking their places before and behind the ceremonial team.

The drummer began to drum a slow march in 4/4 time. The six members of the ceremonial team -- torch-bearer, Guide, Chief, Medicine Man, Guard, torch-bearer -- walked around the circle in front of the campers. After a blank round, candidates would begin to be tapped out. Adult Arrowmen standing behind the candidates would hold up a hand or a sash to indicate who was to be tapped out. The lead torch-bearer would dip his torch in passing, the drummer would hit an end-cadence – ba-ba-ba-bum, BUM! – and the entire team would stop, pivot toward the campers, and the Chief, standing right before the candidate, would fix him with his eyes and tap (strike would be a better word) him three times on his bare left shoulder. Then the Guard would throw his left arm up to his right shoulder, the Chief would mark an arrow on his forearm with a red marker, and the team would reform and begin moving again with the drum.

As soon as the team had cleared the stunned candidate, Arrowmen standing behind him would escort him to a line forming on the east side of the fire, facing the lake. “Escort” is too weak a word for it; “bum’s rush” was more like it. Some smaller candidates’ feet never touched the wet grass. And there the candidates would stand, in one or two or three short lines, throughout the rest of the ceremony. The fire would be blazing like gangbusters at this point, which could make standing there until the end even more of a test of your endurance.

Sometimes, a Vigil Call-out would be held. The Vigil Chief would stride out in the middle of the ceremony, calling out, “Stop the ceremony!” The Vigil candidate(s) would be called out of the crowd, tapped out by the Vigil Chief, have a triangle of arrows hung on his neck, and then walked around the fire in the middle of a triangle of spars, with firepots burning at the angles.

After all the candidates had been tapped out, the ceremonial team would make a final pass around the circle, just to make sure they hadn’t missed anybody. Then, the Chief would yell, “Visitors, go home! Campers return to your campsites!” The Visitors, who had been watching from the waterfront area just across the corner of the lake, would head for their cars. The campers who had not been called out were taken back to their campsites by their guides.

We did the Pre-Ordeal at camp in those days. And then the new candidates were set out with only the blanket or sleeping bag they wore over their right shoulder to spend the night in the woods. In the morning, they were collected and sent to breakfast. They were told they couldn’t talk again until after breakfast, although I think that was later changed to after grace was said. The morning was still charged with magic for those who hadn’t been chosen. After breakfast, the new candidates were dismissed from the dining hall first, amid a storm of applause.

The candidates came back to camp for their Ordeal at the end of summer. Brotherhood candidates would do their testing and ceremony on Friday night. Ordeal candidates arrived Saturday morning (having done their Pre-Ordeal at camp). They were immediately separated into gangs for work projects. Silence was expected and enforced. The work was hard, and it lasted all day. My Ordeal lunch was a half sandwich of undressed spam and a small Dixie cup of weak lemonade. We got to attend the banquet, but we weren’t off silence until after the ceremony, which didn’t take place until dark. And then, we got our sashes hung on us. We took the Obligation. We received the Admonition. And now we were in the know, and could look forward to wearing the symbols of the Order and playing Indian the next year at camp!

The Ordeal ceremony was held in the Callout Circle, I think, but I also remember there being a hidden circle we used for Brotherhood ceremonies across the lake, just uphill from the dam. At one ceremony in that circle, one of our Advisors, Dr. John Droste, was chagrined to find that he couldn’t remember the Admonition; he was turned away and had to go ask somebody what it was in order to be admitted to the circle. A common joke at the time was to reply to the question, “Have you seen the arrow?” with, “Why, have you lost one?” before giving the correct answer.

I was tapped out and did my Ordeal in 1968. A year later, I got my Brotherhood. And at the conclusion of that conclave, we were told that there was something called a National Conference being held for all the Arrowmen in the country the very next week, and we were the Host Lodge for it. We needed workers. It was too late to sign up as a participant, but anybody who signed up to work would get the patch, the mug, the neckerchief, and also get to wander around the IU campus playing Arrowman for several days. It was my first NOAC. It cost me ten bucks. A better deal I haven’t had in all my years with the Order since.

I kept the Vigil at Camp Wapehani in April of 1972. It was sad to see it de-commissioned. I remember the conclave when we took the flagpole out of its block so that both could be moved to Maumee. Nobody could figure out how to get the long (and slippery) metal pole out of the hole. Then Dick Martin opened a Fieldbook or some other handbook of knots and looked up something called a pipe hitch. He tied that on the pole and we lifted it out as if it were nothing – the only time I’ve ever seen that knot used. We had already de-commissioned the Dining Hall; it wasn’t in use during 1971, our last year at Wapehani.

Memories crowd in upon me. Some are crazy things, like the summer we had eating contests. A camper in my cousin’s troop (Troop 3) ate something like forty-six prunes for breakfast one morning (we used a lot of surplus commodities, if you couldn’t guess). Rex Legler, then our Waterfront Director, couldn’t let a mere camper show him up, so the next morning, he ate sixty-three prunes at a single sitting. After breakfast, he retired to his cabin, and was not seen the rest of the day.

But the deepest and clearest memories of Camp Wapehani, the most moving experiences, took place by firelight. And the best of these were often accompanied by the sounds of the Chief’s song coming across the lake under a sky filled with stars.

Present at the Creation (or close enough)

Memories of Launching Nischa Chuppecat Lodge

Submitted by Art Collins (Geschitehen)
Upon the 100th Anniversary of the Order of the Arrow

On an evening in early January, 1973, I got a phone call from Bill Bogner, our newly-installed So Aka Gha Gwa Lodge Chief. He was highly excited. “Where were you?” he demanded. “You weren’t at the Lodge Executive Committee meeting!”

I replied that I was no longer on the Lodge Executive Committee. I had served the last two years as a Chapter Chief, first of Miami District, then, after graduating high school and moving from Spencer to Linton, as Chief of Lincoln Trail District. But my term was done, my successor elected. I had no office. Bill was not to be deterred. “I need you!” he shouted into the phone. “You’re my Henry Kissinger!” And he insisted that I show up at the February meeting. In what capacity? I asked. He named me Lincoln Trail Chapter Advisor on the spot (it was vacant), and as a youth member, I was to be allowed to vote. It was all probably ultra vires.

But nobody questioned it at the next meeting. We had just merged Councils the first of the year, which meant that we had just merged Lodges. It had been decided at that first, joint, Executive Committee meeting that Bill Bogner and Jeff Garrett (chief of Wazi Yata Lodge) would remain as Section Chiefs, and the Executive Committee would co-opt a new Lodge Chief to preside over the Executive Committee. That was a major topic at that February meeting. As I recall, the person the Advisors recommended was not present that day, but I remember the Executive Committee electing him, and he was certainly in the chair by the next meeting.

Also a hot topic was what to name the new Lodge. I have been recently told that that was certainly decided before the first (spring) newsletter went out, so it must have been decided upon at the February or March meeting. I think it was the latter. There was a great sense of urgency given to naming the Lodge by some Advisors, but others wanted to wait and do the job right (as they saw it); they wanted to research the languages spoken by the Indians of the area and come up with a unique name fitted to the history of our Council. Urged on by the more impatient folks, the youth looked up names in the Lenni Lenape word list in the OA Handbook and settled quickly on Nischa Chuppecat, which meant “Two Rivers.” Dr. Bob Finehout (who was not present at that meeting) was disgusted upon hearing of the decision. He said, “they just looked in the back of the book” for a name and wouldn’t wait for research into something more authentic. The totem was to be the confluence of two rivers – a hard thing to picture on a lodge flap, but a sketch was soon produced, and we were off and running.

I was on the Rules Committee, chaired by Dave Schrodt. I recall typing up the draft of the first Lodge Constitution from the decisions of that committee and the boilerplate in the OA Handbook. Years later, I served on camp staff with a younger man who had been Lodge Chief. He used to trump all conversations about lodge doings with the phrase, “Well, when I was Lodge Chief . . . “ After a while, whenever he would bring out that phrase, I started responding to him with, “Well, when I wrote the Lodge Constitution . . .” I didn’t really, of course, but it’s important to remember that there are always people around who know more than you do or who have more honors than the ones you’re so proud of.

The most fraught decision we made that spring had to do with procedures for our first Ordeal. Back then, preserving silence throughout the day was a high priority, and members were probably a bit too zealous to correct those who broke it. Wazi Yata also had a tradition of having Ordeal candidates wear a little, three-section block of wood around their necks. When someone spoke out, it was allowed that they could have a section of wood broken off for talking. And they were warned that if they broke silence three times, they would be sent home and not be allowed to complete the Ordeal. I don’t know if anyone had been sent home for talking any time in recent memory, but I remember that So Aka Gha Gwa had not used such a device; those of us from that section thought the whole think smacked of hazing. We took a vote, and the little wooden blocks were disallowed by a single vote. Our Lodge Advisor, Dick Martin, then called our attention to the fact that we had just had our first-ever party-line vote. All of us were surprised by that and unhappy that we had split on former-lodge lines. A member of the majority must have moved to reconsider, for we eventually decided that the wooden pendants would be worn at that first Ordeal (satisfying Wazi Yata tradition), but that nobody was authorized to break off any sections (satisfying So Aka Gha Gwa sensibilities). Hurt feelings were avoided and everybody felt a good decision had been made. I don’t think the wooden pendants were ever used again. It rapidly became a non-issue among so many new things to be worked out.

Also taking up a fair amount of discussion in those first months was how to be represented at the upcoming NOAC at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Carl Stewig, our professional Advisor, insisted that we were one lodge and should go as a single delegation. The cost was so prohibitive, however, so only one person, Bill Finke, signed up to go from the Wazi Yata section; Bill Bogner, from the So Aka Gha Gwa section, was the only other member who went other than our dance team, the Heyoka Indian Dancers. In the end, we had a very large delegation, but other than the two Bills, we were all dancers.

That NOAC was the first to be held on the West Coast, I think; certainly, it was a first for UC Santa Barbara. It was also, I think, one of the first National Conferences where registration and room assignments were done by computer, rather than shuffling paper. Now, it so happened that every door on the Santa Barbara campus had a number over it – part of UCSB’s system. These were used by whoever was doing the computer work, with the result that some training sessions were assigned to broom closets and at least one lodge was assigned a dorm lobby for their sleeping quarters. It was a mess, but we all laughed over it.

I remember one of the first vigils kept at Maumee. The Vigil Honor members who were present slept in the Admin building, which was the only building finished. Once you stepped outside, you were in raw nature: much of the underbrush hadn’t even been cleared away yet. The original trail to the OA circle (still in use in the ‘80s) started at the parking lot and went down behind what is now the shotgun range (probably why we don’t use that trail any more); the stone step at the head of the trail is still there.

I wrote up an account of NOAC for the Lodge newsletter at the end of the summer. By Fall Conclave and Fall Fellowship, things were running smoothly. We held our first Lodge elections and first Chapter elections. New boys rose to leadership, and old loyalties were being replaced with a feeling of unity. Youth are very adaptable, and the new officers and new camp staffs were rapidly building a culture that was unique to Nischa Chuppecat.

I got married on December 31, 1973, and for several years was more concerned with finishing my education and getting life started than with lodge doings. I became an ordained minister in The United Methodist Church, which also meant that I moved around southern Indiana and was active in other lodges before coming back to Hoosier Trails for a time in 1984. By that time, few traces remained of the two former lodges, other than a great desire on the part of older members to lay hold of the restricted lodge flaps of the former lodge that merged with their old lodge back in the day.