Order of the Silver Marmot
Many camps who have been in operation prior to 1945 had their own unique honor society, much like what the OA is for scouting today. Camp Parsons was no different, and the first honor society of the Seattle Area Council was based at Camp Parsons and known as the Order of the Silver Marmot.
Now, there is no animal known as a "Silver Marmot", but the Olympic Marmot is a denizon of the Olympic Mountains and found only in the higher elevations of the Olympics. You know you have reached the heights when you hear that Marmot's whistle as you approach. As such, the marmot was choosen as the symbol of staff and scouts who distinguished themselves at camp. In other words, they climbed the heights of character.
Camp began operations in 1919 and scouts came to camp individually, not as troops, each summer spending a two-week period at camp before heading home. When they arrived at camp they were divided into "Sections" that were based on age and experience. Each section carried the name of a landmark on the Peninsula (Constance, Olympus, Dosewallips, etc) and essentially functioned as troops do today. A senior staff member served as the Scoutmaster along with another staff member who was the assistant. It was shortly after camp went into operation that it was felt that honor campers should be recognized so in 1926 the Order of the Silver Marmot was formed. At the end of each session, the sections would elect a set number of their peers to be entered into the order. Sound familiar? The candidate would then be inducted into the order through a fairly elaborate ceremony that required a journey to various parts of the camp. The Order continued to grow, eventually electing their own officers to manage themselves and had routine meetings throughout the winter months. Remember, Camp Parsons was the only Scout camp of the Seattle Area Council, and virtually all scouts attended camp.
The Order of the Arrow had its beginning at Treasure Island Scout Camp, Cradle of Liberty Council as an honor society for that council. It developed slowly until being accepted by the BSA as the national honor society in 1948. By the mid-1950's, the OA made its way to the Seattle Area Council and the decision (albeit controversial at the time) was to discontinue the OSM and fold those members into the Order of the Arrow. In recognition of the OSM, the new Seattle lodge would be known in Chinook jargon as T'Kope Kwis Kwis or the Silver Marmot Lodge. Like many changes, there was resistance to this, but eventually the vast majority of Silver Marmoters did join the OA.
In 1982, the High Adventure Program was restarted at Camp Parsons and as a reward for completing the Hike, a replica of the Silver Marmot pin from the original order was placed on a leather rounder with white lacing and given to scouts on the hike. In 1983, the number of scouts attending High Adventure was dwindling and Camp Parsons was at risk of losing its program. In order to promote the hiking program, as well as resurrect a strong tradition of Camp Parsons and provide a staff recognition program, the Order of the Silver Marmot was reborn in 1984. It was brought back after numerous discussions with the professional staff as well as members of the old order, all of whom were supportive. It was also brought back with with the strict understanding that this was not an honor society or competitor of the OA, but instead a program unique to Camp Parsons and its staff. The first bylaws of the "new" order were drafted in 1985, and with several revisions remain the same today. Admittance to the order is mainly by serving on the Camp Parsons staff, advancing only with tenure and attaining certain responsible positions on the staff. However, Scouts can be admitted into the Order if they distinguish themselves on a High Adventure hike (not Kayak trip). For a scout to be admitted, they must maintain a daily diary, show true scout spirit during the hike, learn all the mountains and their heights within the Olympics as well as its flora and the various river valleys. Only after completion of the hike and demonstrating the above knowledge as well as have their Hikemaster's recommendation, that scout may be admitted to the Order. This is a lofty accomplishment as it takes a staff member nine weeks to earn their award. The ranks are as follows:
Timberline: Is a leather square on a lanyard with the Silver Marmot pin in the center. It is awarded by the Council of the Marmot to a staff member who has successfully served a full summer season at Camp Parsons. It can also be awarded to a scout who has completed a mountain trek and successfully completes the requirements which includes knowledge of the Olympic Peninsula.
Skyline: Is a leather square with red lacing and is awarded of successful completion of a second year on staff or for a scout, a second successful mountain trek. The Council may award this to staff members who have served other Chief Seattle Council camps, but served their second year on staff at Camp Parsons.
Guide: Is a leather square with the top two sides of the square laced with red and the bottom with white. It is awarded to successful completion of three full seasons on staff. If a staff member served two years at another Chief Seattle Council camp and the third year at Camp Parsons, they would be eligible for this rank.
Sentinel: Is a leather square with the top two sides laced on one side with white, the other with red and the bottom two sides blue. It is awarded to a staff member after four successful summer seasons at Camp Parsons alone. The Sentinel is a member of the Council of the Marmot.
Defender: Is a square with the two top sides laced in red, the bottom containing one side in white the other blue. This is awarded to a staff member who has successfully completed five full summers at Camp Parsons alone AND has been an Area Director (directorships determined by the Managment and the Council of the Marmot). The Defender sits on the Council of the Marmot.
Marmot: Is a square entirely laced in blue. It is awarded to a staff member who has successfully completed six full seasons at Camp Parsons alone AND has served as Program Director or Ranger or Camp Director. The Marmot sits on the Council of the Marmot.
Silver Marmot: Is a leather rounder with entertwined lacing of red, white and blue. It is worn by the current Camp Director regardless of tenure. There is only one Silver Marmot. The Silver Marmot chairs the Council of the Marmot.
The current Camp Director (Silver Marmot) and the current Program Director are also members of the Council of the Marmot regardless of the years served on Camp Parsons staff.
The Order of the Silver Marmot is essentially a staff honorarium that promotes the scouting program both in the camp as well as the High Adventure program. It is a program unique to Camp Parsons and does not supersede any other activity or program. It is not a secret society as its members are readily identified by the leather squares worn around their neck, and although ceremonies are private, parents are more than welcome to attend when their son is inducted. Many staff look upon the Order as being the soul of camp, as it represents the experience for which Camp Parsons is famous for. Given the strict requirements for promotion, the award is looked upon as one earned and not given, and particularly for higher ranks, the combination of time (with regards to years on staff) and responsibility (directorships) certainly gives the award meaning.