Greetings Brother and Sister Order of the Arrow members. I’m Brother Lilchpin, also known as Ken DeWitt. I was the last Lodge Chief of Wisumahi Lodge # 478. 50 years ago, Tahquitz # 127’s Lodge chief, Jon Nelson and I were elected to be the first Lodge Co-Chiefs for Cahuilla Lodge # 127.
Wisumahi and Tahquitz each had their strengths and weaknesses. Due to our decentralization across all of San Bernardino County (except the Redlands and Upland/Montclair areas), Wisumahi developed a strong Chapter system. However we didn’t have a ceremonial or dance team and our regalia was haphazard. Also, because of our decentralization, our leadership team couldn’t get together on a frequent basis. This was back in the dinosaur days–long before the days of cell phones, email, texting, and social media. We had to rely on snail mail and expensive long-distance calls on our land lines. Tahquitz, which covered Riverside County, had strong and well-known ceremonial and dance teams, which won many awards at Section Conclaves. With all of the lodge officers living in the Riverside area, the leadership team could get together, or at least talk over the phone on a regular basis. Tahquitz also had a great newsletter edited by Bert Leithold Jr.. Since Tahquitz was centrally-organized it had no chapters, leaving Brothers living in Beaumont, Banning, Temecula, Hemet, Idyllwild, and the Coachella Valley no way to participate unless they drove to Riverside or there was an event at Camp Emerson. The merger allowed us to integrate our major strengths into a powerhouse that hit the ground running.
But, it wasn’t all easy. There was one major stumbling block in our merger talks. The Wisumahi leadership team wanted the new lodge to have a new name and number. Tahquitz’s leadership wanted to keep the Tahquitz name and Lodge number. The rationale was that the Long Beach Area Council did not have an OA Lodge, but had a Scout honor society known as the Tribe of Tahquitz. Several people in Tahquitz Lodge, in particular, the older adults, felt that if the lodge
gave up the Tahquitz name and number, the Tribe of Tahquitz would swoop in, organize a new lodge taking the Tahquitz name and number, and abscond with decades of history and tradition.
I have to give a lot of credit to Vi Amundson, Tahquitz’s Professional Adviser, Hank Schmel, Tahquitz’s Adviser, and Joe Stanovich, Wisumahi’s Adviser; to get everyone over age 21 out of the way and let the two lodge leadership teams work out a compromise. And, guess what? We did! Dale and Dave Fredendahl from Wisumahi proposed to name the new lodge “Cahuilla” and adopt the rattlesnake as our logo. Once that was agreed to, I proposed to keep the Lodge number 127. There was some grumbling on both sides, but it was important to establish a new identity that honored the local First Peoples that lived throughout our newly-combined territory. Keeping Number 127, did two things. First, if the Tribe of Tahquitz organized into a Lodge and adopted the Tahquitz name, it couldn’t claim to be the successor to the “real” Tahquitz Lodge. Second, presumably, the lower the lodge number, the more valuable the flap.
This helped settle the ruffled feathers of the over 21 crowd. Now, I was never a serious patch trader, so I can’t vouch for a lower number giving a flap more value, but, that’s what I was told.
Before I was Wisumahi’s Lodge Chief, in 1969 I helped establish the Oasis of Mara Chapter in the Joshua Monument District (now part of the Sunrise District) and was its first Chapter Chief. Since all of our Brothers who started the Chapter lived in 29 Palms or on the Marine Base, it seemed like “Oasis of Mara”, the English translation of the Chemehuevi name for the local oasis, was appropriate. In 1971, Paul Shirley, a former OA member came to one of our chapter meetings and told us that several years before, the District had an OA Chapter named Chemehuevi, a name which honored the First Peoples who inhabited the valley and surrounding mountains. Since we really wanted to represent the entire Morongo Basin, the Chapter was renamed “Chemehuevi”.
As you know, the 3 rd . “W” in our name stands for Service. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this: in 1967, John Donaldson, an adult Brother, was the District Ranger at Indian Cove in Joshua Tree National Monument. He told my Troop about an old trail that the Chemehuevi and miners used to travel between the Morongo Basin and the Lost Horse Valley. He thought restoring and marking the trail would be a great service project. In 1969, our chapter adopted the trail and for several years had regular work parties bringing the trail up to safe backcountry hiking condition. Today, that trail is known as the “Boy Scout Trail”.
Shortly before the merger, while I was attending College of the Desert, I was contacted by Bob Mation, an adult Brother in Palm Springs who wanted to find out more about how to establish a Chapter in the Coachella Valley. We met, and then had the Brothers in the Valley get together to talk about the idea. Jon Nelson couldn’t attend, but thought establishing a chapter or clan in the Valley was a good idea as the lodge was having challenges recruiting and keeping members in the eastern part of the County. That chapter, now known as the “ACA” Chapter, was the very first group from Tahquitz to form a chapter in the new Lodge. Congratulations, ACA Chapter, you led the way!
While our formal merger date was June 1, 1973 (not January 1), Cahuilla’s “coming out” event was in April at the Section Conclave at the University of Redlands. That’s where we introduced our new lodge cheer: “Cahuilla Lodge, Superstar. We’re number 1 like you know we are”. We stole the show! Our first official event was the Spring Ordeal in June at Camp Helendade in Running Springs. Camp Emerson, the site of our Fall Ordeal and Vigil induction, was where Karl Hartmetz was elected Lodge Chief for 1974.
Fast forward a few years: In 1995, I was in charge of my district’s Camporee in Washington State. I wanted a “Mountain Man” theme, so I thought that the Green Mountain State Forest in my county would be the ideal place. The Forest Supervisor put me in touch with the forest’s Volunteer Coordinator, a man named Matthew Preuss. At our first meeting, I mentioned that over 20 years before when I was a Lodge Chief in Southern California, a man named Mitch Preuss was my Lodge’s Professional Adviser. Matthew said that he was Mitch’s baby brother and Mitch was now the Scout Executive in Modesto. You never know where Scouting’s journey will take you or the friends you will meet along the way.
Half a century ago, as the leadership teams of Tahquitz and Wisumahi came together and took on the irksome tasks and weighty responsibilities forming Cahuilla Lodge, we did our best to be unselfish in the service and devotion to the welfare of others. I challenge you to take up that mantle and wish you the best in the next 50 years. Thank you.
Cahuilla Lodge # 127 Pages
- 1973 – 1979
- 1974 – 08 – Call of the Cahuilla
- 1980 – 1989
- 1990 – 1999
- 2000 – 2009
- 2010 – 2019
- 2020 – 2029
- 2023 Ken DeWitt Address To Cahuilla Lodge Banquet
- Cahuilla Lodge Chiefs – Photos
- 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
- Chapters of Cahuilla Lodge
- Faces of Cahuilla: An Online Yearbook of our Members
- Founder’s Award Recipients
- Historic Drum Teams
- Images of Cahuilla Lodge
- Lodge Banquets
- Mojave Chapter
- National Awards and Recognition
- NOAC Contingents and Information
- Notable Arrowmen
- Stories of Cahuilla Lodge