Who bet­ter than Hat­tie Kauff­man, the first A­mer­i­can Indian to re­port on a na­tion­al news­cast, to en­light­en Dan Snyder a­bout the BIG PROB­LEM with the name of his D.C.-ar­e­a NFL team.

Kauff­man, a U and WCCO-TV alum and mem­ber of the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho, re­turned to the Twin Cities last month while on tour for her book “Fall­ing into Place: A Mem­oir of Over­com­ing.”

It’s a sad book a­bout her im­pov­er­ished upbring­ing. When I in­formed her that I no long­er read books a­bout chil­dren and women in per­il, Kauff­man, the mid­dle child of seven, stressed: “But it has a re­demp­tive as­pect. That’s a mes­sage that comes out of my book. We hung to­gether, we had like a sib­ling bond; by the end of my book I’m look­ing back at what had seemed hor­rible and it doesn’t seem so hor­rible. I see how we were pro­tect­ed. I see how our love kept us there. I pay trib­ute to a be­lov­ed aunt, who checked in on us.”

Kauff­man has been carry­ing these stor­ies around for a long time: “When I was 25 I wrote a table of con­tents, but it took an­oth­er 25 years be­fore I did an­y­thing.”

A mul­ti-Emmy win­ner, Kauffman was a special cor­res­pond­ent for ABC’s “Good Morn­ing Ameri­ca” before joining CBS, where she worked for near­ly 22 years until her departure in 2012. I re­mem­ber Kauff­man as the warm spot on the set during the rein­car­na­tion of the CBS morn­ing news show that in­clud­ed Paul­a Zahn. Kauffman reported from many CBS platforms including “CBS This Morn­ing,” “The Ear­ly Show,” “CBS Eve­ning News with Kat­ie Cou­ric” (and Dan Rather) and “48 Hours.” De­spite how Kauff­man ra­di­at­ed warmth to me, she said she didn’t be­come a tru­ly giv­ing, caring per­son un­til “my com­ing to God, my con­ver­sion ex­peri­ence.”

She talks a­bout it at length in the book, a­bout which she razzed me twice on vid­e­o for not read­ing.

When asked to make a pitch that might open the eyes and heart of the own­er of the team whose nick­name I stopped using in print in 1992, Kauffman said, “Well, I have to just cut in here for a se­cond be­cause ac­tu­al­ly the visu­al of the [form­er mas­cot of the Cleve­land] base­ball team is more of­fen­sive to me. That big grin­ning visu­al …” is repellent to Kauff­man, who can be seen re­coil­ing on my startribune.com/vid­e­o. The name of the D.C. NFL team, how­ever, wins the ver­bal con­test for of­fen­sive­ness. “Words,” said Kauff­man. “On the Wash­ing­ton team you have a team that’s named af­ter ‘skin,’ ” she said, hold­ing up the backs of her hands on cam­er­a. “Could you do that with any oth­er skin color in Ameri­ca?”

And it’s es­pe­cial­ly hurt­ful and dis­res­pect­ful that it’s OK to do so with the peo­ple I con­sider the Ori­gi­nal Ameri­cans.



Q What is some­thing you keep in a­bun­dance at your home be­cause of your im­pov­er­ished child­hood?

A Oooooh. Du­pli­cates. [Laugh­ter] I have to change that a­bout my­self. Hav­ing not had en­ough, you can get the sense that you’re nev­er going to have en­ough. So you get two of this. Some of that’s changed in re­cent years. I think part of it ac­tu­al­ly fueled a ca­reer. You know what it’s like to work in this busi­ness. It’s a com­peti­tive busi­ness, jour­nal­ism. Es­pe­cial­ly tel­e­vi­sion jour­nal­ism. When your face is on the air, some­bod­y else’s face is not on the air. El­bow­ing. Get out of the way, it’s mine. I think I had a lot of that be­cause of my child­hood, be­cause of the hun­ger and scar­ci­ty.


Q You are some­one who spent a lot of time try­ing to be liked, a mind-set that is for­eign to me and many reporters. What is something you once did to get some­bod­y to like you that you wouldn’t do to­day?

A Wow, that’s a good ques­tion. I was on my way to a sto­ry just as an ac­ci­dent on the free­way hap­pened. I thought this cam­er­a per­son I was work­ing with didn’t want to stop. That per­son said, We don’t need to do this, do we? I said, No, and yet once we got to our lo­ca­tion the ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­er called and said, You stopped and got that didn’t you? You were right there. And we didn’t. That’s one tiny ex­am­ple that’s not going to hurt anybody’s feel­ings, I don’t think.


Q You’re still trying not to hurt feelings?

A There you go-o-o-o-o-o. You’re very good.


Q Be­cause you’ve be­come rath­er re­li­gious, I’d like to know when you last dropped a swear word.

A Oh, you are an un­u­su­al in­ter­view­er. I can’t re­mem­ber the ex­act last time, but is has been since my com­ing to God. No­bod­y gets per­fect in that mo­ment. My com­ing to God, my con­ver­sion ex­peri­ence, was so real for me and yet I didn’t know what it meant. As with ev­er­y­bod­y, it’s sort of a slow ev­o­lu­tion of your­self. Hope­ful­ly we are be­com­ing bet­ter hu­man be­ings.


Q Were you an a­the­ist be­fore you ac­cept­ed “The white man’s God,” which is strange com­ing from some­one whose dad­dy was white while your mom was Nez Per­ce Tribe of Idaho?

A Ex­act­ly. I was ex­posed to some Native A­mer­i­can spir­it­u­al­i­ty as a child. That sort of fell away in my 20s. May­be I had a thought here or there, like an eagle flies over and I think I’m be­ing blessed or some­thing like that. Then I start­ed work­ing in the news busi­ness. I prob­a­bly be­came just more and more skep­ti­cal of an­y­thing and everything. You know, you go out and inter­view peo­ple. You hear, I am strong. The Lord will get me through this. I don’t even know what that means. I was prob­a­bly along that [line of thinking]. I don’t know that I would call my­self a pro­fessed a­the­ist. I’ve met those and I would not say that’s what I was. I was just sort of an off-the-path person.


Q What would have been dif­fer­ent a­bout your life if you had found a con­nec­tion to God earli­er?

A Well, I prob­a­bly would have had less of that “Please like me, please like me” and “Do I have en­ough stuff” to make sure I’m OK. I have so much more peace and hap­pi­ness right now. I cer­tain­ly would have loved to have that peace and hap­pi­ness soon­er. [Laughs] Also, I find I do things that are not just for me an­y­more. For in­stance, giv­ing up of a day to be with some­bod­y. Not, “Oh, I came to vis­it a sick per­son, can I go now?” Just giv­ing. I don’t think that part of my­self ex­ist­ed.


Q You al­ways seemed more caring on TV.

A [Laugh­ter] That’s fun­ny.


Q What would the 11th Com­mand­ment be if you could de­cide it?

A [Ex­tend­ed laugh­ter] I could nev­er even … I can’t even go there, I don’t think. You are ask­ing me to put my­self in God’s shoes and I can’t do that.


Q Why were you named Hat­tie?

A My great-grand­moth­er was named Hat­tie. My moth­er’s grand­moth­er on the A­mer­i­can In­di­an side. She died a­bout a month af­ter I was born. It’s not even on my birth cer­tifi­cate. It was just stuck on me.


Q Your name, Hat­tie, al­ways stopped me, and I wondered why you didn’t change it. It’s an old name, like Hat­tie Mc­Dan­iel, the most famous Hattie I know, who’s been dead since 1952.

A She was the only Hat­tie an­y­bod­y ever heard of when I intro­duced my­self through the years. They call me Pattie and I said, “No, it’s Hat­tie.” Call me Mattie, I’d say, “No, it’s Hat­tie.” Fi­nal­ly I would say “Hat­tie Mc­Dan­iel.”


Q If you had a stage name what would it be?

A Nat­a­lie.


Q Which morn­ing net­work news show do you think is the best and why?

A Where do you come up with these? [Laugh­ter] Oh, I kind of stopped watch­ing. You think I’m dodg­ing but it’s the truth.


Q Your re­port­ing style re­minds me a little of NBC’s Ann Curry’s. You’re a gen­tle spir­it, empathetic — ap­par­ent­ly less empathetic than I re­al­ized — but with­out be­ing sap­py or o­ver­ly emo­tio­nal. Am I close?

A Well, I would as­pire to that.


Q Is this an ap­pro­pri­ate tease for a TV show: “I asked Billy Ray if re­ports are true that Randy [Travis] is on life sup­port. You’ll hear what he told me to­mor­row …”

A Was than an ac­tu­al one? [It was stated on “Entertainment Tonight.” Sound of ex­as­per­a­tion, from Kauffman.] That is hor­rible.


Inter­views are edit­ed. Reach C.J. at cj@startribune.com and see her on Fox 9. A highly edited, shorter version of my interview with Hattie Kauffman’s appears in print editions.