In 1973, the Boy Scouts of America reorganized from 12 Regions1 to 6 Regions2. As a result of this reorganization, many Councils in the Country consolidated. In 1972, Arrowhead Area Council and Riverside County Council agreed to merge, with California Inland Empire Council being formed on January 1, 1973.
As a result, Tahquitz Lodge # 127 and Wisumahi Lodge # 478 were required to merge into a new Order of the Arrow Lodge. This was a tremendous challenge for the leadership of both groups. Neither side had been involved in a previous merger. Both Lodges had strong but differing organizations, with traditions that were not guaranteed to continue in the future.
By virtue of comprising the vast majority of San Bernardino County, the largest County in the United States, Wisumahi Lodge’s operations were decentralized with a high reliance on their chapters. Tahquitz Lodge had the majority of their membership based in Riverside3 with smaller active groups in outlying communities like Palm Springs and Indio.
The official merger date is somewhat ambiguous. Much of our prior written histories date it to January 1, 1973, but this is incorrect. Tahquitz and Wisumahi, while holding several mergers meetings with both Lodge Executive Committees, continued their operations as two groups into 1973. Two issues of the Tahquitz Talk newsletter were sent to members of both Lodges.
Working Through Compromise
Both Lodge Executive Committees began meeting in earnest to discuss how to combine their operations.
There were a number of difficult considerations to work through. There were concerns about both Summer Camps, Emerson and Helendade, that were somewhat put to rest when the new Council committed to holding camp at both facilities.
Tahquitz was well-known for their excellent ceremonies and their dance team, the Tlingit Dancers. There was ongoing concern that letting go of the name would provide an opportunity for the Tribe of Tahquitz in Long Beach to join the Order of the Arrow with that name4.
Another consideration were the pocket flaps of the new Lodge. Wisumahi, with the Double-Headed Goose motif on their pocket flaps (their actual totem was the Arrowhead), were popular trading flaps. Tahquitz Lodge, on the other hand, restricted their pocket flaps and they were tough to obtain.
A challenge existed that Vigil Honor members of Tahquitz Lodge had their OA dues paid for life. Between the two Lodges, this would have comprised a significant percentage of the Lodge membership. Discussion was very tense, with it being decided to discontinue the privilege for Vigil Honor members.
These are all tense issues, with youth making decisions that were heavily influenced by the adult membership. One of the more memorable meetings was held at the Newport Sea Base during a Section Meeting. Numerous leaders from both Lodges attended, and it was a very positive way to get together, get to know each other, and make some key friendships that would be important for the new Lodge.
The New Lodge Has A Name
Customary for the time, the new Lodge kept the lowest number of the merging Lodges, Tahquitz’s # 127, just as California Inland Empire Council kept Council # 45. The Supreme Chief of the Fire asked the two groups to create a new Lodge name. Many suggestions were put forth, including from local First Nations such as Chemehuevi. In the end, Ken DeWitt suggested Cahuilla, a desert and mountain First Nation found in both Counties, was selected as the new Lodge Name. A proxy vote was sent to all members in the February 1973 Tahquitz Talk and they were given 20 day deadline to respond. In the end, Cahuilla as a name was widely supported.
Both Lodges attended the 1973 Section W4B Conclave as their own groups. However, that was the event that they announced that the new name and number of the combined Lodge would be Cahuilla Lodge # 127. The May 1974 edition of the Tahquitz Talk also announced the Lodge’s name and the upcoming events.
There was no ceremonial groundbreaking date for the Lodge in 1973, so the official date for the Lodge is ambiguous. A March Fellowship was held on March 17 with both Lodges in attendance. The first official Cahuilla Lodge event as a combined organization was an Ordeal held at Camp Helendade, on June 1 – 3, 1973. Two weeks later, a second Ordeal was held at Camp Emerson, on June 15 – 17, 1973.
The new Lodge newsletter was named the Call of the Cahuilla, an enduring and well-known Lodge publication that was key to Lodge engagement for 5 decades.
The First Flaps
Again, a compromise was found. Two pocket flaps were authorized. One was considered the “trader flap,” and was openly sold and traded. It is the only Cahuilla pocket flap without a snake. The outgoing totems of Tahquitz and Wisumahi were the totems on the cloth.
The second pocket flap was a semi-restricted pocket flap that debuted the rattlesnake. It was designed by Rick Pohlers. Obtaining this flap was tied to attending events, meetings, and service hours.
There is enduring interest in what is truly considered the “first flap.” Like a baseball rookie card, the first flap of a Lodge is held in prestige. The old Arapaho II listed the restricted flap as the first flap. When the Bluebook was created, this was changed to the trader flap. Some have said that a trader flap can’t be a first flap but this is not true – designations are in chronological order only. It appears that both flaps were approved simultaneously and may have been created simultaneously. Co-first Lodge Chief Jon Nelson remembers driving to Los Angeles to review the creation process.
In the end, it likely doesn’t matter which of the two designs is the first flap. There is circumstantial evidence that the “S6” might actually be the original restricted flap as a couple people believe that is the one they actually received in 1973.
While combined officer elections were being organized, outgoing Tahquitz and Wisumahi Lodge Chiefs Jon Nelson and Ken DeWitt served as Co-Lodge Chiefs of the newly formed Cahuilla Lodge.
The Lodge Comes Together
At the 1973 Fall Ordeal, elections were finally held, with 3rd Lodge Chief Karl Hartmetz being the first elected Chief of the Lodge and would take office on January 1, 1974.
The merger was a time of nervousness, anxiety, frustration, and ultimately, compromise. While it was difficult to lose or change the traditions from each Lodge, they built an enduring organization that became one of the most well-known and admired Lodges in the country. Cahuilla Lodge is close to 50 years old, nearly as old as Tahquitz and Wisumahi Lodges combined. Changes will continue. Cahuilla Lodge may not last forever, and any future merger should look at what the two Lodges came together to build in 1973.
- Ken DeWitt
- Rob Higgins (OASections.com)
- Jon Nelson
- Tracy Schultze
- Frank Sydow
Cahuilla Lodge Pages
- 1973 – 1979
- 1980 – 1989
- 1990 – 1999
- 2000 – 2009
- 2010 – 2019
- 2020 – 2029
- Cahuilla Lodge Chiefs (By Chapter)
- Cahuilla Lodge Chiefs and Advisers
- Cahuilla Lodge National Award History
- Cahuilla Lodge Vigil Honor Recipients
- Cahuilla Pre-History
- Call of the Cahuilla
- Faces of Cahuilla: An Online Yearbook of our Members
- Founder’s Award Recipients
- Historic Drum Teams
- Lodge Banquets
- NOAC Contingents and Information
- Stories of Cahuilla Lodge