First, a sincere thank you to everyone who has supported the 2016 Attorney on the Move crowdfunder so far—each donation and social media share will truly ensure that AOTM continues until the end of 2016. And the crowdfunder will be officially active until 12/31/15, so there is still time to get involved! Thank you, as always, for reading and for your support! It is because of YOU that this project is able to continue into next year.
So far during the first 5 months of this project, there's been a relatively diverse set of experiences. In Delano, I was assisting with mostly housing cases, in Portland I was working in the more transactional side of immigration law—which surely helped me during my time in Tacoma working at the detention center. I also worked with more eviction cases in Kent, WA before heading to work with the Blackfeet reservation in northern Montana for a month. I've learned so much and I'm excited and humbled at what lies ahead.
As you all know, the big plan for 2016 is to open a Virtual Law Office (VLO)—(you can click the link to read more about what a VLO is and the initial services I will be providing). One of the pivotal components of my pro bono work this upcoming year will be comparing how legal models work in similar areas of law. By seeing what is working well—what may not be working as well—as well as what may be missing—is absolutely crucial information for this project.
The learnings from these findings will continue to shape the offerings of the VLO—so that services best suit potential clients' needs.
As most of you remember from my experiences on the Blackfeet reservation, it appeared to be largely reflective of reservation life here in the States. Conditions similar to the developing world abounded on the reservation: shoddily constructed homes, many homes without heat, many homes living with floodwater for 4 years under it (you read that correctly—in the winter it is literally like living on top of a block of ice), trash everywhere, the list goes on.
The Blackfeet tribe is one of the bigger tribes in Montana, but is certainly smaller in size when compared with one of the largest tribes in North America—the Navajo Nation.
Seeing as it is one of the biggest tribes on the continent, my interest has been piqued in how legal/social issues on the Navajo reservation will compare to the Blackfeet. My assumption going into this experience is that the Navajo tribe will have more resources to allocate among tribal members, a larger tribal government (and therefore all of the associative things that come with that), and so on. But from what I have heard, there are still the aforementioned things that are endemic to reservations as a whole in this country. The effects of post-colonization—regardless of tribe/location/geographical area—are a particularly heightened type of oppression in America. And that appears to be a constant among all reservations here.
Tomorrow I start at DNA Legal Services—a legal services organization that offers free civil legal services to low-income people who otherwise couldn't afford an attorney.
I'll be working at their Window Rock, Arizona location—where the governmental center of the Navajo Nation is located. I also want to give a big shout out to the power of community—a friend of a friend, Maile—informed me about DNA and put me in touch with Julie and others, who helped me find my way to Window Rock. I love that I am heading down there after speaking with a few other like-minded attorneys. To me, that is also building on another tenet of this project/the VLO, which is to continue to work with other social justice attorneys in the name of providing more legal access for all. (Thanks again Maile & Julie!).
I'll be living in a trailer owned by DNA—on the Navajo reservation itself. Office couches and air mattresses have been my thing lately, but the trailer will be a first! I can't wait to get started. And next week, I'll be reporting from Window Rock.