About the Order of the Arrow
The Order of the Arrow is Scoutings' National Honor Society
The purpose of the Order of the Arrow is fourfold:
Each OA lodge has its own distinct name, along with its number. The Lodge name not only gives it and its members a unique identity, but the name usually tells something about the lodge or Council. Often the name, or its translation, relates to the history, lore, or location of the Lodge.
Each new lodge chooses its own name and totem when it applies for its first charter. Although two lodges cannot have the same name, they can have the same totem. Usually the name is in the language of the Lenni Lenape language or of a local American Indian tribe. A few lodge names are in non-American Indian languages such as English. Those lodge names, however, usually have an American Indian, frontier, or other unique local theme.
The National OA assigns the individual Lodge number when they issue the first charter. In the past, lodge numbers have reflected the sequential order of charter. In other words, Akela Wahinapay was the two hundred and thirty second Lodge chartered. This changed in the 1990’s with the many Council and lodge mergers. They can either keep one of their old lodge numbers or take another number that is no longer in use.
Unfortunately, the charter application for Akela Wahinapay was lost in a fire at the National offices in the late 1940's. Without those records, we have no original information on the meaning and the source of the Lodge 232 name and totem. We are left with only a few scattered clues, diminished by time, with which to reconstruct the details. Since most lodges are in some way named for their totem, it is the logical starting point.
The few existing records from the early years of the Lodge show 232’s official totem as the Arrow of Light. Although now the Arrow of Light is almost solely associated with the BSA Cub Scout program that was not always the case. The Arrow of Light was originally an international Scouting idea first developed by Lord Baden-Powell.
The Arrow of Light
At the 1929 World Scout Jamboree, held at Arrowee Park in Birkinhead, England, Lord Baden-Powell introduced his new idea called the Arrow of Light . . .
“The Arrow of Light has seven rays depicting the seven days of the week and a reminder to ‘do one’s best’ every day. The Arrow forever points upward and onward toward good citizenship, and also has the meaning world friendship symbolized by the Golden Arrow.”
This is the meaning of the symbol we call the Arrow of Light. To depict this new Arrow of Light, which also appeared on the Jamoree patch, they displayed a large golden arrow at the center of the site. In addition, they gave gilded wooden arrows to the Scouts during the closing ceremonies as a token of the Jamboree and world friendship.
To the 20,000 Scouts representing 35 countries at the Jamboree, the Arrow of Light quickly came to symbolize the best ideas of world scouting. From the Jamboree it soon spread to become part of the Scouting program in many different nations.
The Arrow of Light retained its international meaning as an idea of service, citizenship, and friendship through the early 1940s. Its symbol also called to mind many symbols of the American Indian. This all combined to make it an appropriate totem for a new lodge.
The name Akela Wahinapay is unusual because neither word is Anglo nor genuine Native American. With no charter records to work with, we have to deduce its origin and meaning from what we do know:
These few clues, and other facts found in their study, do provide some very likely answers. The following is a suggested solution for the meaning and history of the name Akela Wahinapay.
Akela – Leader
The name Akela comes from The Jungle Book, written by Rudyard Kipling in 1893. Akela was the wise leader of the wolf pack that cared for mogali, a native boy who had become lost in the jungles of India. It is the story of how Mogali learns the lessons of justice, loyalty, and working together, from his animal friends during their many adventures.
In 1916, Lord Baden-Powell selected The Jungle Book as the theme for the new Wolf Cub program. He started the Wolf Cubs to meet the demand in England for a Scouting-like activity for boys too young for the boy Scouts. The Wolf Cub program quickly spread to more than 30 countries. This made the name Akela part of the world Scouting movement, and it quickly cam to mean “leader” to all Scouts, not just Cubs.
In the late 1920’s the BSA began studying the idea of a Wolf cub-like program. Then it was the BSA policy to follow international usage of names whenever possible. This meant that terms like Cub, Cubmaster, and Akela would be kept as part of the BSA program. The Jungle Book theme, however, with its jungle animal characters and setting in India, was considered too foreign to appeal to American boys. So the BSA decided to Americanize the theme before adopting the program. When the Cub Scouts became part of the BSA in 1930, Mogali became an American Indian boy. Akela became the chief of Mogali’s tribe, the Webelos.
Wehinaphpay – The Sun Rising
First, as discussed earlier, various early documents show that original spelling as Wahinahpay. The second “h” disappeared sometime around 1948, and the spelling changed to the current form. The reason for the change is unknown. Since the second “h” is presumably silent, it was probably a simple mistake that became accepted over time.
The original spelling is important though because it leads to the first clue of the word’s source. Although no language source can be found for Wahinapay or Wahinahpay, the Lakota (Sioux) language does have a very similar word – Wehinahpay. The Lakota word Wehinahpay means “the sun rising into sight, or the rising Sun.”
Camp of The Morning Sun
In the Sacramento Mountains near Ruidoso, New Mexico, is a BSA camp named We-Hin-Ah-Pay. It was founded in 1924 by the Conquistador Council. The book Saga of Potato Canjon, A History of The Conquistador Council Boy Scout Of America, describes how they chose the name of their camp. They took it from a story about a tribe of American Indians. Each year the men of the tribe would take their young boys out to a special place to teach them the ways of warriors. They always made their camp in the hills where the light of the rising sun would flood the camp at an early hour. They called their camp We-Hin-Ah-Pay.
The Influence of Jack Hodges
In trying to understand the meaning of the name Akela Wahinahpay, the influence of Mr. Jack Hodges must be considered. As the Scout Executive when the OA came to the Council, he undoubtedly influenced the selection of a name for Lodge 232.
As discussed earlier, before becoming a Professional Scout, Mr. Hodges was a longtime volunteer in both the Cub and Scout programs. Through this experience he was familiar with the name and meaning of Akela. In addition, Conquistador Council is next to the Buffalo Trails Council where Mr. Hodges started his scouting career. Camp We-Hin-Ah-Pay was very popular with Troops from Buffalo Trails Council during the 1930s. Mr. Hodges could have easily borrowed both names, with a small accidental change to the spelling of Wehinahpay, for the name of the new Lodge.
The lore of the HCAET may also have influenced the selection of the name. The purpose of the HCAET was to teach, as was the campsite called We-Hin-Ah-Pay.
Translating the Past
Interpretation of any name, especially involving words from different languages, is educated guess work at best. It becomes less accurate when we anglicize the meaning based on our own limited grasp of the original language. It becomes worse with the loss of the collective memory of the item or period in question.
For example, by the late 1940s and early 1950's much of the history and meaning of the lodge had been lost. This was due to the almost total change over of membership. Very few, if any, of the charter members were still active, and they had no written history of the Lodge. Without the charter members, the Lodge experienced a loss of collective memory. Soon several facts began to undergo slight changes, such as the spelling of Wahinahpay.
During this time this Lodge newsletter, The Gorget, reported Akela Wahinapay meant “Chief is the Arrow of Light.” This translation shows the influence of the Cub Scout program at time and its use of Akela. In addition, “Chief in the Arrow of Light” really doesn’t make much sense.
The Meaning of Akela Wahinapay
Accounting for the history of both words, it is probably a better translation to say “Leader to the Arrow of Light.” In other words, Lodge 232 is a guide to the ideas of service and friendship that the Arrow of Light represents.
From this, it is also easy to see how the Arrow of Light symbol is a fitting totem. It unites the original meaning of Akela and “Camp of the Morning Sun.”