Wiatava Lodge #13 was formed in 1973 to serve the Orange County Council in Southern California, but the history of our lodge begins long before that.
Like many councils, the Orange County Council originally had its own honor camper society, known as the Tribe of Gorgonio. It was founded around 1927 at Camp RoKiLi, the council summer camp at Barton Flats in the San Bernardino Mountains.
The Tribe of Gorgonio was similar to the Order of the Arrow in some ways, and different in others. New members were elected by the other Tribesmen in camp, and had to pass through a series of ordeals and ceremonies. There were four ranks – Neophyte, Brave, Warrior, and Medicine Man – with the Scout Executive serving as Chief.
The Tribe was primarily active at Camp RoKiLi, but sometimes expanded to a year-round schedule, and even established a series of local “clans” in the mid-1930s to serve the various communities in Orange County.
San Gorgonio Lodge #298
In 1943, Anaheim, Fullerton, and the smaller surrounding communities broke away to form their own Northern Orange County Council (later simply known as the North Orange Council). The original council (headquartered in Santa Ana) was renamed the Orange Empire Area Council. Not long after, new leaders in the southern council began the push to replace the Tribe of Gorgonio with a local lodge of the Order of the Arrow.
In 1945, San Gorgonio Lodge #298 was chartered. The first members were inducted at the council Camporee that May. Even longtime Tribesmen had to start over again as Ordeal candidates.
The new lodge continued to have close ties to Camp RoKiLi. Besides summer camp, spring ordeals, and work parties, in 1946 they hosted their first fall gathering at camp, which soon grew into our modern Pow Wow.
Another important event was the annual Indian Camporally, held in Orange County between 1952 and 1960, which featured native dancing and pageantry.
In 1956 San Gorgonio Lodge held its first Vigil ceremony, and in 1957 our first annual dinner was held. 1956 was also the first year the Lodge issued a flap patch.
By the late 1950s, Orange County was growing at a tremendous rate, and San Gorgonio’s membership soared. As the lodge grew, the district chapters became more and more active, and began to adopt their own names and totems.
Old Camp RoKiLi was just too small to keep up with the growth of the council, and in 1964 it was replaced by a new summer camp – Lost Valley Scout Reservation (now known as Schoepe Scout Reservation at Lost Valley).
San Gorgonio Lodge continued to serve the Orange Empire Area Council until 1972.
Ahwahnee Lodge #430
For several years after the council split in 1943, the Orange Empire Area Council and the Northern Orange County Council continued to share Camp RoKiLi, and northern Scouts and Scouters were also welcomed into San Gorgonio Lodge.
As early as 1946, the Northern Orange County Council considered forming its own lodge, but it was not until 1949 that the real work of organizing a new lodge began. In February 1950, Ahwahnee Lodge #430 was chartered.
In 1954, the northern council purchased their own summer camp near Green Valley Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains. It was named Camp Ahwahnee, in honor of the lodge. The work of building and staffing the new camp took up much of the lodge’s time over the coming years.
In 1961, Ahwahnee Lodge inducted its first Vigil members in a ceremony at Camp Ahwahnee. By 1967, the lodge had grown large enough for the district chapters to take over more and more of the responsibility for the yearly activities.
But the continuing growth of Orange County also brought financial problems for the North Orange Council, and in 1972 they reluctantly agreed to merge with the Orange Empire Area Council and re-form the original Orange County Council.
Wiatava Lodge #13
The council merger also forced the merger of San Gorgonio and Ahwahnee. Both lodges continued to operate separately through the end of 1972, while a joint committee spent five months hammering out the details of the merger, hoping to perpetuate the best of both lodges.
Wiatava Lodge #13 was officially formed on January 1, 1973. The lodge chose local Indian traditions for both its name and totem. Wiatava is the Cupeño Indian name for Lost Valley, and means place of the oaks. Our totem is the cogstone, an ancient and mysterious artifact, found mostly in archaeological sites in and around Orange County.
Rather than keeping the number of either of our predecessors, Wiatava Lodge asked the national office for the lowest number available at the time, and thus became lodge 13.
Spring Ordeals were held at both Lost Valley and Camp Ahwahnee in 1973, and the first lodge Pow Wow was held at Lost Valley that fall. The Pow Wow alternated between the two camps until 1978, when Camp Ahwahnee was closed. Since then, all our Pow Wows have been held at Lost Valley.
The district chapters have remained an important part of our lodge operation, though their names and boundaries continue to shift as the council membership changes.
Over the years, Wiatava has built a national reputation, usually sending one of the largest contingents to the National Order of the Arrow Conferences. Our lodge has also provided a National Chief of the Order of the Arrow – Evan Chaffee (2007) – and a National Vice Chief – Larry Brown (1979-80) – along with numerous section and regional officers.
Copyright © 2012 Wiatava Lodge 13, Orange County Council Boy Scouts of America
All Rights Reserved
Created by Phil Brigandi
Photos provided courtesy of Phil Brigandi.
Orange County BSA Historian