Indian lore has always been a part of the mystic of a Scout camp. There have been many different types of Indian based organizations in camps across America since the first summer camps were organized. The summer camps in Comanche Trail Council were no different. Two different Indian groups existed prior to the organization of the Order of the Arrow.
The basis for the organization of the Otena Lodge was sowed some seventeen years before the Lodge was chartered. This seed was the results of a Scout Troop going to another council's summer camp for a week of fun and adventure in 1928. Little did they know that this campout would eventually affect thousands of Scouts in the coming years. But let's begin from the beginning.
TRIBE OF THE BLACK ARROW WAS FIRST SEED PLANTED
The tribe of the Black Arrow was the very first Indian organization in the Comanche Trail Council. It was from this group that the Kunieh Society was organized in 1934. The members of the Kunieh Society later became the first members of the Otena Lodge, Order of the Arrow in 1945.
The Black Arrow was not an isolated organization, for a similar group known as "The Secret Order of the Black Arrow" was active at Camp Fawcett of the Southwest Texas Council, Uvalde. This group came into being in this council because of three Boy Scouts, Lowell Pouncey, Stuart Painter and Gaitha Browning, all of Brownwood, becoming involved in Indian lore, as a result of their experience at Camp Fawcett.
The three Scouts became interested in the life of the Indian in 1928, when they attended Camp Fawcett as members of Troop 2 from Brownwood. The camp was located in Edwards County just one mile outside of Barksdale, Texas, on the Nueces River. C.L. Pouncey, who would later become Scout Executive of the Pecan Valley Council here, was their Scoutmaster at the time.
An Apache Chief, Red Eagle, from Roswell, New Mexico, was teaching Indian hunting, trail lore and demonstrating tribal dances at the camp. Each year he would travel from Scout camp to Scout camp teaching Indian Lore. He would set up shop in a cowhide tepee and his stories of Indians, songs and dances were a continual delight to the Scouts in camp. Pouncey's troop burlesqued his dancing and so pleased Red Eagle that he gave more time to the three boys, Pouncey, Painter and Browning than the other Scouts in camp.
Upon return to Brownwood, under the leadership of Pouncey's father, C.L. Pouncey, they began an eight year devotion to Indian culture and later at the first Camp Billy Gibbons. They had a "Council of Black Arrow" that met on in January of 1931.
Council of Black Arrow Meets
"The council of the Black Arrow, Stuart Painter, Jack Schlepper, Gaitha Browning and Lowell Pouncey, had a round table meeting and feast Saturday night at Mr. Pouncey's residence. The boys furnished the eats, which were to baked chickens and dressing, hot rolls, spegitti (Spanish), cabbage slaw, peas, corn, pickles with Jello topped with custard and fruit cake for desert. Guests for the evening were Executive Pouncey, Scout Master All Schlueter, Mrs. Pouncey, Glen Pouncey and little Miss Pouncey. Preparations for helping in the outside area for the council was discussed."
To that end, the Council of the Black Arrow went with Mr. Pouncey to Stephenville later that month to help organize a new troop in the community. The Scouts from Brownwood put on an Indian fire lighting ceremony and some archery shooting. Due to a heavy rain, the Scouts spent the night in Stephenville as guest of the American Legion.
It didn't take them long to learn to shoot with bow and arrow. On the weekends they "went Indian." That is, they hunted with the Indian weapons of their own construction and looked for traces of the Red Man. Certain nights of each month they did Indian dancing and signaling. Soon, other boys became interested in what they were doing so they decided to form the "Tribe of the Black Arrow." In January 1933 about 100 boys immediately joined as members. Assistant Scoutmaster Gaitha Browning was elected "Chief of the Tribe" and Stuart Painter was named "Medicine Man" for the group. They had a very successful first year.
An anniversary of the Tribe was held on January 10, 1934, at a scout cabin on Lucas Lake near Comanche. Gaitha Browning, as Chief "Running Elk," and Stuart Painter, as medicine man "Thundering Buffalo," were in charge of the program.
The Tribe was treated to a "beef heart supper" which was properly prepared under the direction of the two youth. Everyone present promised to start immediately on passing their tests in the art of Indian lore. They would work on ranks in the organization which were "Scout," "Hunter," "Brave" and "Warrior." Following the evening's program they agreed to have their next regular meeting on the next 11 new moons.
Painter and Browning had by now become so skilled in Indian craft that they taught in Boy Scout camps in New York and Texas. They became knowledgeable in Indian sign language and deciphered the writings on the Concho Paint Rock, just outside Paint Rock, Texas, on the banks of the Colorado River. An account of their interpretation was carried in the Fort Worth Star - Telegram when their work was completed.
From Gaitha Browning's interest in Indian lore and his exposure to other Indian type groups in the camps he worked in, the Kunieh Tribe was born under his leadership.