Interpretive dancing and more than 160 intricately painted Native American-inspired tablecloths were on display Friday morning as the Pierce County Prayer Breakfast celebrated tribal history for the first time in the event’s 37 years.
“This couldn’t be more timely, and I couldn’t feel more blessed,” said Pat Walker, a Tacoma resident who danced as a representative of the Creek Tribe.
Walker was dressed in a fringed, all-white traditional costume and danced to a song version of the Lord’s Prayer, one example of the blend of tribal traditions and Christian themes at the breakfast.
Doe Stahr, who made the tablecloths, said each can take from a day to a week to craft.
“These are the illuminated pages in my prayer book,” said Stahr, a white woman married to an Alaskan Tlingit tribal member and lives on Whidbey Island. “I’m in prayer the entire time I make it. They are mostly created for installations for tribal gatherings.”
Connie McCloud welcomed guests Friday morning on behalf of the Puyallup Tribe.
“The native community here in Pierce County is the eighth-largest population of native people across the country,” she said. “We are not invisible. We are your next-door neighbors.”
Claudia Kauffman, a Muckleshoot tribal representative and former state senator, said she felt appreciated.
“This is just wonderful,” Kauffman said. “It’s a welcomed invitation and long overdue.”
Among those in attendance were Vicky SwimsUnder and her daughter Lisa, who moved to Tacoma in 1997 from Browning, Montana, home of the Blackfeet Indian Tribe.
“The speaker really inspired me,” SwimsUnder said. “I’ll be back next year.”
Irvine Porter, pastor of the Church of the Indian Fellowship in Puyallup and of the Nez Perce Tribe, introduced guest speaker Hattie Kauffman (Claudia’s sister) by praising her strength and toughness — and that of Native Americans in general.
“We have experienced many things,” Porter said. “We have experienced much that is both good and bad. But we still hope. We are a resilient people.”
Hattie Kauffman of Seattle belongs to the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho. She spoke of her journey from the housing projects of Seattle to her work as a pioneering Native American national news correspondent.
Other speakers at the breakfast at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall were Mayor Marilyn Strickland, County Executive Pat McCarthy and Sheriff Paul Pastor.
Organizers said about 1,500 people attended the event, larger than the usual turnout.