Dr. Daniel F. Littlefield Jr.
Speaking with a descendant of Cherokee "Rich" Joe Vann
A respected teacher, author and historian spoke at the recent 5 Tribes Story Conference, and what a surprise to see the disrespect he experienced from a member of the teaching community at Bacone College and from speakers on the panel with him.
I’m sure Dr. Littlefield attended the event at the request of the organizers for his knowledge and expertise on the “history” of the so called Five Civilized Tribes known as the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole. It is also safe to assume he accepted their invitation with the full knowledge his contribution to a conference with the theme of "fiction" writing and story telling" was not exactly his area of work but he attended despite these difference for what I believe is his never ending support for the Native American community as it wrestles with the issues of history, culture and identity. Dr. Littlefield has contributed mightily to the body of work that now exist so citizens in all the five tribes have his ground breaking work to lean on.
What I observed on the last day of the conference was enlightening and sad only because I watched how this fine man was rudely treated by fellow panelist and a “speaker in the audience” who described himself as an educator at Bacone College. I would think if he were not directly addressing Dr. Littlefield as someone who was “non-Indian” incapable of writing about “Indians” because he was not Indian or traditional or someone who “lived an Indian” lifestyle, the phrase “present company excepted” should have been used to qualify his remarks.
The constant interruption of Dr. Littlefield when HE was asked a question smacks of the kind of disruptive behavior one might expect from children but these were grown men who each time the professor began to speak in my opinion deliberately and rudely responded to the question that was intended for Dr. Littlefield. It was incredible to watch! When the co-panelist finally allowing Dr. Littlefield to speak; one pulled his hat over his face I suspect to conceal his laughter while the other “flopped” in his chair as if to demonstrate his impatience with whatever it was Dr. Littlefield was going say.
How Dr. Littlefield could graciously and calmly allow the two participants on the stage to go on with their response and not object would have been beyond my patience so I have learned a great deal from his cool demeanor in dealing with the childish behavior that was unbecoming of people who are educators. Quite frankly, it was a sad day for the faculty of Bacone and truly unfortunate for a man of Dr. Littlefield’s reputation.
Dr. Littlefield has done more by publishing the history, culture and preservation of the Five Civilized Tribes, their history of enslaving people of African and African-Native descent, while maintaining academic excellence these gentleman may want to emulate.