This year’s Pierce County Prayer Breakfast, scheduled for Friday, will mark the first time in 37 years that organizers have invited and honored local Native Americans at the local event.
“We are making a connection that really hasn’t been done before,” said Keith Beasinger, the breakfast’s chairman.
The speaker will be Hattie Kauffman of Seattle, who belongs to the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho. She is a former national correspondent for ABC and CBS News and before that an anchor for KING 5 in Seattle.
Kauffman told The News Tribune she hopes to engage the South Sound audience with inspirational stories from her memoir, “Falling into Place.”
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“When you grow up a reservation and you’re poor, you always have a way to survive,” she said. “You can go hunting or go to grandma’s house, but when we moved to Seattle in 1960 and were in the projects, it was a very isolating thing. But somehow we got through.”
Kauffman says celebrating Native American culture is not inconsistent with the Christian faith, which is at the center of the annual prayer breakfast.
“There were certainly mistakes made a long time ago by missionaries,” Kauffman said. “They said that if natives were to become Christian they would have to act like little Europeans, but that’s not the case at all.”
Kauffman said she’s glad to see the prayer breakfast’s outreach to Native Americans and hopes they will continue to be welcomed there.
“Even in the Bible it says ‘people of all tribes’ will come to know the Lord,” she said. “You can have a very rich cultural experience and still believe and worship God.”
David Norman, a Tacoma man with three decades of experience as a missionary, was instrumental in connecting more than 100 Native Americans to this year’s prayer breakfast. Invitations were sent to members of the Puyallup, Nisqually, Squaxin Island, Muckleshoot, Duwamish and Steilacoom tribes.
“I contacted all the people I know that are in support of my involvement in the native culture and said ‘we have chance to honor the native people,’ ” Norman said. “They have given to me for the last 30 years, now it’s my turn to give to them.”
Norman raised funds to pay for 12 tables at the breakfast for Native American guests. All the tables at the breakfast will be decorated with native design tablecloths, and a native flag procession will be part of the festivities.
“I want each of the native leaders that walk in to know that they are respected,” Norman said.
The prayer breakfast typically draws about 1,500 people, including public officials. Past speakers have included former Lincoln High football coach/NFL quarterback Jon Kitna and former U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole.
Last year’s speaker was unusually controversial: Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, known for opposing same-sex marriage and for denying a federal judge's order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from a state building. Security was hired for the first time in prayer breakfast history, and some local officials skipped Moore’s address.