Day 1: Travel, Training, and Fellowship
Cherokee, N.C.! Today is our first day in Western N.C. and it has been a full one.
I am Samuel
Williams and I, along with my partner Joseph Chilton and nineteen of our newest
friends, will be leading you through the first-ever Pro Bono Winter Break Trip
to Cherokee, N.C. We will be spending the next day and a half running a free
legal clinic for members of the reservation in conjunction with Legal Aid of North Carolina.
Our morning began
at 5:30 a.m. when we congregated at the Alta Springs clubhouse in Chapel Hill. In
true Carolina Law fashion, everyone was on time and ready to go (well,
technically I was 2 minutes late, but whatever). We were greeted by 3 sweet SUVs and while they may not have had amenities like
“room for storage,”
they had swag.
Motivated by our fearless leaders Munashe Magarira, Kelly Anderson, Dean
Novinsky and Meriwether Evans we were soon off with nothing in front of us but
the open road and the sweet allure of Bojangles and coffee.
Cherokee we managed to leave the rain behind and met what is always the
breathtaking scenery of the Appalachian Mountains. With caffeine in our system
our convoy managed to roll in an hour early and we were able to observe the
Cherokee Tribal Court in session. (Fun Fact: All of the Judges on the Cherokee
Court graduated from UNC
I’m just saying).
After a delicious
lunch of Domino's pizza we were officially introduced
to Judge Matthew Martin, Associate Judge on the Cherokee Court and adjunct
professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, and Larry Nestler,
Senior Managing Attorney for Legal Aid of North Carolina's Sylva office.
The next few hours were spent learning more
specifically about Cherokee tribal law and its interconnectivity with the law
of North Carolina and about what issues we could potentially see tomorrow.
Judge Martin talked to us about important court cases in the history of tribal
law (for additional reading check out Johnson
Intosh, Cherokee Nation v. GA,
v. GA). We learned what proof was required in order to enroll as a member
of the Cherokee Nation (Must be 1/16 Cherokee and have ancestors listed on the
members of the tribal council were elected (each
on the reservation votes for members), and what
property rights each individual on the reservation has (individuals do not own
the property but rather have a possessory interest in the land). Needless to
say we learned more than I have room to share on this blog but it was
fascinating and I have no doubt we will
learn plenty more by the end of this week. Larry of LANC went over a
number of specific statutes from the Cherokee Indians Eastern Band Code of
Ordinances and gave us just a taste of what we could be seeing tomorrow. Spoiler Alert: Will/Estate issues,
Custody questions, Predatory Lending involving a mobile home on tribal land,
and an adoption question. Tomorrow we will be split into partners as we do
amongst other things intake interviews with different clients. . . wish us
After training we headed back to our hotel (which
by the way is a 30 second walk from the casino) and got ready for dinner.
Dinner was at Bogarts in Sylva, NC where tonight's special was the
best fried catfish I have ever had with redskin mashed potatoes and a side
Winter Break Group Picture
Kat led our reflection after dinner. We wrote
letters to ourselves talking about our hopes and expectations for this trip as
well as potential prejudices involving our client population. We will be
getting these letters back on Friday. It was comforting to hear from the other
members of our group as we go into the relatively unknown tomorrow. After
dinner I realized that regardless of what tomorrow brings the fellowship which
grew out of today was something special and I feel fortunate to have gotten to
spend time with such an incredible group of people, many of whom I would not
have had the pleasure to meet otherwise.
Even though we were all exhausted the night
involved a quick trip to the casino, where we were given five complimentary
dollars. . . that’s right, we’re kind of a big deal. I have not seen the whole
group since everyone headed to the casino so I’m not sure of what
our take was, but I’ll make sure to keep you in the loop.
Winter Break Casino Trip
Tomorrow: The real work begins.
Posted by Samuel H. Williams (Sam) on Wed. January 2, 2013 10:00 PM
Winter Break Trip 2013