Your Journey Begins with AIA
Written by Matthew Hodges | Croatan’s Lodge Chief
Regardless of the location and date of your Ordeal, your journey in the Order of the Arrow was initiated with a ceremony team. After numerous hours of youth ceremonialists memorizing lines, adult advisers coaching their performance, craftsman researching and constructing pieces of regalia, and a support team prepping the site for your arrival; the stage was finally set. Countless hours were spent by numerous individuals to make that fifteen-minute ceremony as impactful as possible. Ceremonies and all the roles that take place behind the scenes are only a small portion of the American Indian Affairs (AIA) Program. The AIA Program in Croatan Lodge has been created over several years and is the result of the efforts of various adult and youth who were committed to its success. As with any faction of the Order, the pillars of a successful AIA program are promotion, communication, organization, and commitment.
Promotion and recruitment play a crucial role in the success of any AIA program. Promotion comes in many forms. On Saturday nights of Croatan Lodge Ordeals, a powwow takes place to promote AIA to the recently inducted Arrowman. During Scouting events, members of Croatan Lodge AIA can be seen wearing red jackets bearing the insignia of our program and rockers that particular individual has earned within it. Members of Croatan’s AIA program also wear a specific beaded drop on their Class-A uniform in place of the Universal OA Dangle. This is a method to promote the program to Scouts outside of putting on a powwow. Promotion is the key to recruiting new youth, and without new youth, a program dies off quickly.
After recruiting new Arrowman into the program, communication is vital to retain them. Whether email, social media, or texting it is imperative that these new young Arrowman knows about upcoming events and how they can go about becoming more involved in the program. At the Saturday night Powwow at Croatan Lodge’s three Ordeals, the AIA Adviser takes up the names and emails of all of the Arrowman, whether new or old, who want to become involved in the AIA program. In addition to being added to the email list, these individuals are also added to a Facebook Group specifically for Croatan AIA. Information regarding AIA roles at Lodge functions, upcoming AIA events, and other useful information is sent out through these channels on a regular basis.
To ensure the continuity and success of the program, there must be an efficient form of organization and leadership. In Croatan Lodge, there is a Vice-Chief of Indian Affairs that is annually elected by the Lodge. After his election, he appoints a chairman for Drum, Dance, Crafts, Ceremonies, and Ceremonial Support to assist him in administering the AIA program. Each of these chairmen is assigned a specific adviser, creating a committee of six youth and six adults to run the program. This allows many individuals to collaborate on ideas for the program and help to train future Vice-Chiefs of Indian Affairs to run the program.
Even with promotion, communication, and organization an AIA program cannot be successful without commitment. One of the biggest commitments youth and adults must make is a commitment to travel. Traveling to powwows and events outside of normal Lodge functions is one of the most beneficial things an AIA program can do. Traveling not only gives youth the chance to learn and practice outside of Lodge functions but also gives members of the AIA program the chance to engage in fellowship on the long ride to and from. Croatan AIA typically travels to Virginia, Pennsylvania, and numerous trips around North Carolina on an annual basis. Youth and adults, regardless of how long they have been involved in the program, benefit from every trip they attend.
Since my involvement in Croatan AIA I have traveled to Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia, South Carolina, and across North Carolina too many times to count. The closest friends I have made in the Order have been those I have been crammed into a fifteen passenger van laughing for hours on end. A successful AIA program within a Lodge means more than just a group of guys who powwow on the weekends. A successful Lodge AIA program leads to the cultivation of future Lodge leadership. Members of a successful AIA program know the importance of organization, communication, and leadership. AIA programs allow youth to network with both youth and adult Arrowmen across the nation and learn from one another. Be aware that what works for one Lodge, may not work for another. The details of a Lodge’s AIA program must be tailored to the needs and unique characteristics of that particular Lodge.