The Order of the Pawnees – Catawba Lodge PreOA Society

THE PAWNEESOne candidate for membership described the Pawnees as one of the ugliest bunch of people he had ever seen. Walt Smith and others in 1926 felt that Camp Steere needed an achievement organization that the campers needed to fulfill during their week in camp. Almost every camp in the country developed a service oriented group or honor society that used Indian ceremonies as initiations.  The ceremonial teams dressed as Indians usually in costumes reflecting the Indians in their particular area.  Thus it was that the Pawnees were created and dressed as ferocious warriors.

The Pawnees took the point across from camp and built a stockade of logs and called it the Pawnee Lodge.  It would be a secret organization made up of outstanding Boy Scouts.  There were four or five charter members.  The counselors and Chief Steere established the rules for membership.  Campers would have to make some project for the camp that was useful such as a bridge or tower and it must be located at the camp. The members would note both the projects being built in camp during the week and the Boy Scout’s attitude which would make them eligible to become a member.  A meeting would be held at the lodge and then the initiates would be summoned. Sometimes they would be in solitude or tied to a tree and would then be brought to the stockade.  Then an initiation ritual would be held. The initiates would be tapped and then would remain silent for two to three days.

A few Scoutmasters were taken into the group and there were some honorary members like Smith and Jones of Independence Trust Co. “who took care of affairs.”  A couple of regional executives from Atlanta were also honorary members.

Sometimes the candidate was taken from his bed in the middle of the night and taken to the Pawnee ceremonial grounds.  Beau Whitton remembered that he must have been 100 yards down the trail when he was fully awake and realized his feet were cold which brought him to his senses.  He had left the campsite without any shoes.

Ikie Wallace and Emma Pitillo were some of the first to be initiated into the Lodge.  Wallace remembers that after the ceremony the candidates had to walk the trail back to camp so they just spent the night at the ceremonial grounds and walked back the next morning.  The day after they had hiked the trail back to camp a liquor still was raided about fifty yards off the trail where they had just hiked the day before.  For their project they built an entrance for the nature trail.  He felt it was “sort of sad” but they had built something.  Dickie Davis remembered having to dig a three-foot deep hole to plant a tree in the narrow part of the peninsula.  He said it was the hardest dirt he ever saw and that nothing ever grew in it.  Essie Anderson built a bridge somewhere near the lodge.  The Pawnees as a group built four fire towers around the camp in the 1920-30s.

During the UNCC Study someone gave them a copy of the Pawnee Indian Lodge Pledging Ceremony.  The original was written by Walt Smith and this is probably not the original.

Pawnee Pledging Ceremony

The Pawnee Indian Lodge has met in council and has decided that you _____________ have made a worthy camp project, have shown an excellent camp spirit, and therefore they have voted unanimously to accept you as a pledge of the lodge.. This is a very serious decision for you to make and one that should require a great deal of work on your part to prove that you are worthy of being a Pawnee.  Think seriously upon the matter.  Should you accept, it would mean that you must not only live up to what you have in the past in the way of ideals of camp life, but that  you must ever strive to improve your Christian character and camp spirit..

A lapse of ten minutes should follow, with absolute quiet.

We have heard the hoot of the owl in the distant cove; we have heard the bark of the fox in the big woods; we have heard the splash of the fish in the lake; we have heard the voices of many of the smaller night creatures; we have sat in council together and have been drawn closer by the comradeship around the fire.  Now is the time to make your decision.  If you wish to become a Pawnee pledge, make it known by saying HOW; if not, you may return to the boat.

Council rise.  “May the Great Spirit put sunshine in your hearts”

Initiation Ceremony

Invocation:         Oh Great Mystery, we beseech thee

That we may walk reverently

Beneath Lap-pah our brothers, the trees;

That we may step lightly on

Kiso, our kinsmen, the grasses:

That we may walk lovingly over

Loo-poo-oi-yes, our brothers the rocks;

That we may rest trustfully

Where the O-le-le bird sings,

Beside Ho-ha-oe, the talking waters.


Pledge by Firebrand

Oath:                                        With the aid of the Great Spirit, Itius Tirawa, I promise to do my best to maintain the high ideals of camp life and Scouting that the Pawnees promote; to uphold it traditions and protect and defend its secrets; to apply myself diligently in the arts of woodcraft, Indian, and nature lore; and to protect my Pawnee Brothers.



As part of the 75th Anniversary of the Order of the Arrow, Eric Maillet and Bernie Samonds interviewed Brevard Myers and Jim Hewson and some others about their experiences as Pawnees and related them in a lodge newsletter.  Their findings showed that a Boy Scout had to be at least a Second Class Scout, a good swimmer and active in most of the camp activities.  O. A. Crenshaw remembered that there was a “Pledge Week” and during that week you had to do a project and his was building a bridge across to an island.  It had to support ten boys and he had to build it himself in his spare time.  Brevard Myers cleaned a nature trail around the shoreline to Pawnee Point that also included building footbridges along the way.   The difficulty of the testing progressed through the week until the Boy Scouts spent a day of silence.  Then that night the selected Boy Scouts were awakened and taken for the ceremony.

Bill Faulk remembered that in the 1940’s when he was initiated into the Pawnees they were given one match, an egg and a piece of bread.  They then cooked the egg in a cup they were given.  Lunch was nothing more then a bologna sandwich.  They worked in silence while digging holes, cleaning out culverts, and planting a rose garden at Camp Steere.

Faulk thinks that there was a Pawnee patch.  A felt patch that looked something like the US 7th Army Indianhead design.  Others remember that the Pawnees wore a beaded necklace.

The Pawnees in 1941 met either across the river from Camp Steere or at the camp.  Harry Hewson was Chief and the lodge or stockade for ceremonies was thirteen years old that summer.  In 1943, Young DeWitt was presented with the Outstanding Boy Scout Camper Award by the Pawnees.

Pawnee Point, which in 2004 is in McDowell Park, had a stockade or ceremonial ground built out of pine slabs that were all weathered and gray.  Inside during ceremonies were a number of fires and standing on some rock mounds were costumed Indians in front of cutouts of thunderbirds that Indians considered as a powerful symbol.  The legend of the Pawnees would be told by Chief Steere whom they say was very impressive.  They recalled that no Scoutmasters or professional Scouters were allowed as members but an occasional Assistant Scoutmaster or Junior Assistant Scoutmaster would be allowed into the meetings.

The first mention of discontinuing the Pawnees and organizing an Order of the Arrow Tribe occurred in the Camping and Activities meeting in late 1942.  The question was brought up to the Council Executive Board Meeting on May 19 1943.  The main point of contention was that the Pawnee membership voted in new members while the members of the individual Boy Scout troop, who were not necessarily OA members, voted on who would be members of the OA from their troop.  After some discussion, the motion was sent back to the committee for further study. In 1951, the council organized the Order of the Arrow Lodge.

During the 1970’s some of the Scouters who were active in the 1950’s and possibly in the 1960’s recalled that some troops had not accepted the Order of the Arrow and still continued the Pawnee ceremony on their own.  One leader said that he could remember an Indian with a full bonnet coming into the dining hall and taking a Boy Scout out to do a Pawnee initiation.

Pawnee Patch

The symbols in the center of the patch stand for –

The fire represented the chief’s fire that you sat around and smoked the peace pipe

The black footprint represented the Tar Heel State (North Carolina)

The shape of the inner dome was the shape of the stockade on Copperhead Island at Camp Steere

(Production Date and Quantity Unknown)

Contributed by Lodge Editor Larry Banks
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