Reflections on Our Trip - Munashe Magarira

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Going into the Winter Break Trip, I had a lot of anxieties. Would the trip participants enjoy themselves? Would we be more of a help or hindrance to the local community? Would we be snowed out? Would one of the participants be attacked by an elk?

Munashe and Kelly speak with Larry Nestler

Fortunately, none of these worries came to pass. Participating in the free legal clinic was amazing. It was truly humbling to witness the community come behind what our students, the Legal Aid Sylva Office and Cherokee Court House were doing. All of the clients that came in were extremely warm and friendly. Even when our students were not able to resolve their legal problems, I did not see one client leave the clinic disappointed.

It was also truly inspiring to see the trip participants handle some very knotty legal issues with such aplomb, skill and confidence. As I am sure you have read, two of the trip participants served a client in Canada (eh?).

We also had an opportunity to listen to a number of great speakers. Wednesday afternoon, Justice Martin, one of the sitting Associate Judges on the Cherokee Court, gave us a highly informative and entertaining briefer on Native American Law and history, highlighting how the Supreme Court’s decisions in cases like Johnson v. M'Intosh shaped and informed the relationship between Native American Tribes and the federal government.

Thursday night, we were graced with a wonderful speech by Myrtle Driver, a fluent Cherokee speaker and passionate advocate for Cherokee culture and issues. Ms. Driver regaled us with stories of her youth and her attempts to not only preserve the Cherokee language but to also create new Cherokee words.

We were also honored to have Corey Blankenship, the Treasurer for the Eastern Band of Cherokee, come speak to our group. Corey’s speech gave us a brief snapshot of the economic and social issues affecting the reservation today. Of particular note was his discussion on the Tribe’s attempts to amend the per capita distribution scheme (program in which reservation residents are given a share of the Casino’s profits).

Munashe Stands Pensively

All in all, it was a wonderful trip that I feel honored to have been a part of. I would like to thank Judge Saunooke, Judge Martin and Senior Managing Attorney at the Legal Aid Sylva Office Larry Nestler, Kelly Anderson, who, along with me, was a special trip coordinator, the Pro Bono Program Director Meriwether Evans, Pro Bono Program Advisor Dean Novinsky, Charles Story, who helped document the trip, and, most important of all, the trip participants who made this trip an experience I will never forget.

Posted by Munashe Magarira on Fri. January 18, 2013 8:23 AM
Categories: Winter Break Trip 2013

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