Council Scouts

"Council Scouts"—who are they, what are they—why? Best answer—do your best and find out for yourself.

--c1926 Leaders Guide
1935 Welcome Neophyte picture.jpg

Camp Director Gordon Sprott in regalia at a Kia Kima campfire (1935)

The Council Scouts was an honor society at Kia Kima that developed in the early years and continued until the 1940s. Council Scouts spread to nearby camps, and it is a forerunner to the Order of the Arrow.

Once elected to receive this honor, Scouts were then “taken into the Council Ring” and given an "Indian name." The honor of being inducted into the Council was available to everyone: "The camp council, which recognizes camp officials, scout officials and scouts as equals, rids the camp of any snobbish feeling and develops a democratic feeling." (Kia Kima Chief has Fine Camp Discipline, Commercial Appeal, July 9, 1922, at 15).


Election and Induction

At Kia Kima, any individual could be elected to become Council Scouts: campers, staff, or visiting Scouters. (Kia Kima Chief has Fine Camp Discipline, Commercial Appeal, July 9, 1922, at 15). It is unclear whether Scouts were elected by the existing Council Scouts or by the entire camp as sources allude to both: "At the last meeting of the Council Scouts, held in the deep woods near camp, three boys who have proved good campers and good scouts were elected members of the council ring." (Memphis Boy Scouts are Enjoying Hardy, Commercial Appeal, July 11, 1928, at 13).

Regardless of the method of election, the criteria was clear: "There are no rules by which this honor may be obtained—if a Scout does his best to live up to the Scout Oath and Law, is industrious and a good camper, he will quickly be elected by his fellows to a place at the campfire of the Council Scouts." (1929 Kia Kima Leaders Guide, at 8).

Scouts were inducted "at a Council Fire held somewhere in the deep woods near camp," where they received an "Indian name," similar to the Vigil Honor of the Order of the Arrow. (1929 Kia Kima Leaders Guide, at 8).

The induction ceremony drew on American Indian inspiration. The ceremonies used American Indian regalia, and were "held before a totem pole and campfire" after the rest of the camp had retired for the night. (Scouts Break Camp After Joyous Time, Commercial Appeal, Aug. 29, 1920, at 19).


Evidence of a Council Scout hike in 1928 in a cave near Calico Rock, Arkansas (approximately 37 miles straight distance from Kia Kima)


Council Scouts were entitled to certain privileges. This included special stations at Kia Kima campfires and also special trips, hikes, and canoe floats all over the region. Kamp Kiwani even invited the Council Scouts and the Lodge Leaders to a surprise fish fry at Kiwani's beach. (Memphis Boy Scouts are Enjoying Hardy, Commercial Appeal, July 11, 1928, at 13). The Council Scouts usually held an annual trek at the end of the summer-camp season, and in 1935 it was reported that "more than 50 members of the Council Scouts are expected at Hardy . . . for the annual Council Scout trek, the climax of the summer." (Kamp Kia Kima to End Season in Two Weeks, Press-Scimitar, July 31, 1935, at 3). Scouts who had stayed at camp the entire season would be allowed to accompany the Council Scouts, and that year's trek would be to Hot Springs.

Patches - Kia Kima Staff Sash.jpg

1933 Kia Kima Emblem with Council Scout patches and name

Council Scouts received special patches to wear on their Kamp Emblems. The letters "CS" designated members, and some sashes also had the Scout's Indian name sewn vertically on the portion of the sash that hangs down on the right side. These are more common on Kamp Kiwani sashes. Council Scouts also likely had some alternative patches, and the 1931 Camp Director Report inventories "Plain Emblems" and "Council Scout Emblems" separately. The inventory lists 2 Fourth Year emblems and 1 Fifth Year emblem under "Plain Emblems" while also listing 6 Fourth Year emblems and 3 Fifth Year emblems under "Council Scout Emblem," indicating that they were special patches used for Council Scouts. (1931 Kia Kima Camp Director Report, at 9).

Outside of Summer Camp

Unlike the present-day Order of the Arrow, the Council Scout were not active outside of summer camp. The exception is in 1925 when the Council Scouts held a ceremony on the outskirts of Memphis to install the new camp director. Charles Craig, the camp director, would be arriving in Memphis by train on June 15, 1925. Craig was an Eagle Scout, had attended Kia Kima during the first season in 1916, served as a junior leader at Kia Kima, served for two years as associate director of Camp Pioneer in New Hartford, Connecticut, and was a law student at Harvard. The Kia Kima Staff and the Kia Kima Veterans Association planned a campfire in his honor to welcome him back to Memphis and to launch the summer-camp season: "As nearly as possible, the council ring at Kia Kima will be duplicated, with special stations for all council scouts." (Many Scouts Plan to Attend Kamp Kia Kima, Commercial Appeal, June 7, 1925, at 17). The following night, Chief Craig was taken into the Council: "Tuesday night at a mystery council fire on the outskirts of the city[,] Chief Craig will be inaugurated by the council scouts. W.L. Roney, recreational sergeant at Kia Kima for this season, and Henry Dinkelspeil have charge of the ceremonies." (Camp Leader Here, Commercial Appeal, June 13, 1925, at 12).

History of Council Scouts

This honor recognition appears to have first developed in 1920, and the Memphis newspaper reported about it twice that year: "Camp honors this year are recognized with appropriate Indian names. The ceremony of granting the names is carried out at solemn and impressive council fires of the chief and braves." (Kamp Kia Kima Now Splendidly Equipped, Commercial Appeal, Aug. 15, 1920, at 17).

The first documented use of the name "Council Scouts" appears in 1924 in an article describing a Scout's first days at Kia Kima.

At night there will be a formal camp fire meeting at which time all of the new campers will be initiated. Following the camp fire[,] council scouts will go to their secret place. "Council scout" is the highest honor that can be conferred upon a camper at Kia Kima. None but those whose daily conduct is a decided influence for good and cheerfulness are ever elected to a place in the council scout ring. Then they are given an Indian name, the meaning of which is indicative of an outstanding trait of character of the scout being honored.

(Memphis Boy Scouts Bid Memphis Goodby [sic] for Trip in Ozark Mountains, Commercial Appeal, June 15, 1924, at 16). - Kamp Kiwani Camp Sash.jpg

1930 Kamp Kiwani Emblem with Council Scout patches and name

Expansion to Other Camps

Council Scouts was also present at Kamp Kiwani, the neighboring Girl Scout camp. Council Scout names can be seen on Kamp Kiwani Emblems, similar to Kia Kima's Kamp Emblems. Council Scouts may have also expanded to Camp Frierson, the Boy Scout camp outside of Jonesboro, Arkansas, operated by the St. Francis Valley Council Camp in 1929. That year, June Davidson, the Assistant Camp Director for Camp Frierson, accompanied the advance team to prepare Kia Kima for the season. Davidson, along with Kia Kima Camp director, Willard Hays, were “taken into the Council” at the first Council Scouts meeting for the summer. (Council Fire Newsletter, June 4, 1929, at 2). Regardless whether Davidson brought this new experience of the Council Scouts back to Camp Frierson, it would have only lasted one summer as the camp was forced to close before the 1930 season. (Abandon Plans for Frierson Scout Camp, The Courier News, May 24, 1930, at 1). The following year in 1930, the St. Francis Valley Council paid Kia Kima $175 for the privilege of allowing their Scouts to attend Kia Kima, and 29 of their Scouts attended in 1931. (1931 Kia Kima Camp Director's Report, at 2). But the council did not recharter after 1930.

Phased Out

Council Scouts appear to have faded out by 1940 when the Chickasaw Council summer camp program moved to Camp Currier. It is uncertain if the Council Scout program continued at Camp Currier, but no Camp Currier sashes have been located with Council Scout patches. The program was fully replaced when Kia Kima reopened in 1948 and the Order of the Arrow was adopted.

Note: Some Scouting historical websites have referred to the Council Scouts as the Order of Kamp Kia Kima, but no primary sources have been found that use this name.

Council Scouts