Matthew McGehee has been involved in scouting as a Cub Scout and Boy Scout since elementary school. The 17-year-old Bishop T.K. Gorman Catholic School senior said scouting teaches him skills that would serve him in life and provides a chance for camaraderie and fun.
Within Boy Scouts, McGehee also is a member of an exclusive brotherhood known as the Order of the Arrow - a national Honor Society of scouts that promotes leadership and character and this year celebrates its 100th birthday.
In August, McGehee and 29 other scouts traveled to Michigan State University for the Centennial National Order of the Arrow Conference, where Order members gather for fun and events, including team and individual competitions, including ceremonies representing Arrowmen’s induction and advancement and traditional Native American dances.
The Tejas Lodge of the East Texas Area Boy Scout Council, of which McGehee is a member, brought back 12 national medals and a trophies in competitions, including dance, mascot and regalia dress.
McGehee’s four-man ceremony team won two National Honors Team awards for conducting induction and advancement ceremonies. On Saturday, the Order of the Arrow Tejas lodge will celebrate the accomplishments of the lodge at its annual awards banquet.
McGehee, who acted as the youth contingent leader, said it was exciting to be part of the 100th anniversary of the Order. He said there were Arrowmen of all ages attending and that it was interesting to hear members talk about the history and how it has changed over the century.
“Most significant for me is the opportunity to be amongst people who are dedicated to learning life skills and becoming leaders,” he said. “It’s a privilege to be led by youth and adult leaders and learn and then take on a leadership role. That’s what it’s all about.”
The society was created in 1915 to honor scouts who best exemplify the organization’s Oath and Law.
The Order’s mission is to promote camping, responsible outdoor adventure and environmental stewardship as essential components of every scout’s experience.
The goal is to develop leaders with the willingness, character, spirit and ability to advance the activities of their units, the Order brotherhood and in Arrowmen’s communities, states and the nation.
To qualify for the Order a scout must be a registered member of the Boy Scouts of America and hold the First Class rank.
After registration with a troop or team, scouts must experience 15 days and nights of Boy Scout camping during the two-year period prior to their election. The 15 days and nights must include one long-term camp of six consecutive days and five nights of resident camping, approved and under the standards of the Boy Scouts of America.
Members of the Order are elected by peers and go through an induction process called an Ordeal then complete a series of requirements and complete an induction ceremony.
The Boy Scouts of America took semblances of traditional ceremonies from the Lenni Lenape or Delaware Indian and dress in various Native American regalia, including warbonnets and various traditional dance dresses.
But some Native American groups and activists have been critical of the Order of the Arrow for its appropriation of traditional tribal ceremony and dress.
Terry Westmoreland, Chapter Adviser Tejas Lodge, Order of the Arrow, said the national organization and local chapters confer with Native American organizations annually to ensure Arrowmen dress and ceremonial dances are consistent with the tribes they represent.
Arrowmen do not wear paint on their face or bodies and do not wear certain dress that is sacred to many Native American tribes.
“We are choosing to honor them not mock them,” Westmoreland said.
The Boy Scouts and the Order of the Arrow mean a great deal to Westmoreland. He was unable to complete his rise through the ranks but became involved with his son, who became an Order member and Eagle Scout.
Westmoreland became an adult member of the Order and continues his involvement.
There are 170,000 current active members of the order in 259 local scout councils (lodges) nationwide. There are 377 Current members of Tejas Lodge Order of the Arrow.
Westmoreland joked that fun, fire and sharp objects are what attracts boys to scouting but that the combination also teaches them lessons that last a lifetime.
“It puts them on the right path to know what’s right and what’s wrong and that sometimes it takes standing up when nobody else will.”