By: Pati Egan
Every Lodge Member remembers the feeling of anticipation as the flaming arrow was shot in a straight line headed for the path, and then hearing their name called out by the Four Winds. It wasn’t always done this way.
If you became a Lodge Member in the years before approximately 1967; then the Four Winds would softly call your name. No arrows were shot. Camp was smaller then so each person got called individually.
Around 1967 the use of flaming arrows began. The Four Winds were no longer used, and the arrows were shot within the Council Ring with the candidate’s name slowly called once.
The archer would aim for 4 smudge pots within the Council Ring very near where units sit today. After the speaker in this picture completed their dialog, the speaker and torchbearers would move. This is where the archer would then land the arrow within the middle of the grouping of smudge pots.
Originally, only one candidate was called out per arrow. The arrow was retrieved by one of the eagle dancers and carried upright to the middle of the council ring. The arrow was held upright in two hands by the eagle dancer and then handed to the candidate. The candidate, holding the arrow, would exit the Council Ring. The eagle dancer raised both arms and then lowered them to indicate to the archer that the next arrow could be shot.
Each unit had two or three candidates called out and receiving arrows. First-year campers were eligible to be called out but had to come back the next year to be initiated. Each ceremony used about 35 arrows (including staff and CITs). Camp grew and the ceremony got longer and longer. It was decided to use one arrow per unit to save time and sparklers. The eagle would have to be certain that all candidates came to receive the arrow and then leave the Council Ring before giving the “all clear” sign to the archer.
In 2009 the Lodge turned 50. At the reunion the original ceremony (in use between 1959 to 1993) was performed by old staff members and the new ceremony was performed by current staff members. An arrow was shot for each decade of Lodge Officials. The names of the officials were called out by the Four Winds. The current Lodge Officials at the time really liked the Four Winds and included it in the Lodge Ceremony. It has been done this way ever since that time.
In 2017 Lodge officials wanted to be more in tune with the times, and they felt that portraying Native Americans was not honoring their culture, and that the ceremony didn’t explain the purpose of Lodge or what is expected of a Lodge member. There was a year-long discussion among Lodge Officials and the Program Committee to develop a ceremony that would reflect what Lodge stands for. Much thought, prayer, and discussion went into this process, and the result was the ceremony we have today. The use of flaming arrows was discussed and studied. It was decided that many cultures used flaming arrows throughout history. The flaming arrow was not unique to any one culture. It was decided that this tradition would be kept. For more than 55 years candidates have been called with a flaming arrow to become members of the Lodge of Ondessonk & Tekakwitha.