Orlando, FL (October 2014) – Paul Merriman presented at the annual national conference of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). The invitation came from long-time friend, Al Qoyawayma, renowned Hopi potter, bronze sculptor, mechanical engineer and co-founder of AISES. While there, Paul was named a Sequoya Fellow.

paul and students

“AISES was founded in 1978 and has changed the lives of tens of thousands of young American Indians. It was an honor to attend the conference and teach students who are on their way to working in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), as well as professional members who are already working in STEM fields, about the life changing power of successful investing,” says Paul.

Sequoyah Fellows
The AISES Lifetime Membership program was named in memory of Sequoyah, the great Cherokee Indian who perfected the Cherokee alphabet and syllabary in 1821, resulting in the Cherokee Nation becoming literate in less than one year. In this spirit, AISES Sequoyah Fellows are recognized for their commitment to its mission and to the American Indian community. They bring honor to AISES by engaging in leadership, mentorship, and other acts of service that support the students and professionals in the AISES family.



AISES use of Native American Smudging Ceremony

Thanks to Al Qoyawayma for this explanation to Paul

The Sequoyah Fellowship induction Ceremony is regarded as a solemn occasion, so AISES uses smudging to pay respect and bless the individual receiving the Sequoyah Fellowship with the presentation of the emblematic Sequoyah Medallion.

“Smudging is an ancient practice and best known among Natives of the Americas. Typically sage or other sweet grass is placed in a bowl or shell such as abalone and ignited, then fanned with a single feather or feather bundle made up of eagle feathers or a combination of other birds. AISES uses eagle feather bundle. The smoke conveys a sense of mystery and awe. Although you may not have seen the initial ignition and fanning, an AISES Elder fans the smoke in four directions and imbues himself or herself with prayer to the Creator. As in the “Closing Ceremony” you witnessed a prayer or song was given orally.

In the Ceremony this smoke is then carried to those being blessed and the eagle feather bundle is used to “smudge” or spread the cleansing and blessing properties of the smoke around the individual, and the room as well. This connects us all those in the Ceremony in a loving way. Also the process imbues the person with protection provided by the Creator.

You may have noticed individuals using Native ritual who have their hand palms opened forward (a position of openness) and as they are smudged they “cup” the smoke and bring their hands over their heads further enveloping their head and body with cleansing and blessing the smoke brings.



Similar practices


The use of incense, frankincense and myrrh predates Christianity by thousands of years, such as recorded in China, and most likely amongst all Native peoples in the Western Hemisphere. Incense was something to be prized such as with the 1500-mile Middle Eastern Incense Route and trade. Incense is mentioned in the Bible 170 times (e.g. Exodus 30:7, 40:27). The Catholic Church adopted the burning of incense in a burner or urn in their Mass, with the resulting smoke being a reminder of the presence of God….with awe. In turn, the incense smoke symbolically purifies all that it touches – the person and the Sanctuary.

 In acknowledgement of Paul’s contribution to AISES through financial education, Al Q further added, “Whether you feel spiritual or not, you have acquired an incredible wealth on knowledge and the ability to present that knowledge! That is a blessing to those who LISTEN and ACT.”