pandemo (pandemo) wrote,

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Juan's Day in Court

A Stone Circles Reservation Indian has gotten into trouble in the United States, and needs representation in the courtroom. The court refuses to pay for a translator, as he is not a US citizen, but will allow the tribal council to provide one.

Since the Indians on the reservation are not permitted to speak English openly, nobody has good skills. But Despina has noticed at the library sessions that many of the older students understand the English before she gets to the Spanish translation. She suggests that Juan might be a suitable translator if they do not have a minimum age requirement. She is not afraid that exposure to the US culture will "corrupt" him, as he seems so bitter toward all things White.

She takes him in to Flagstaff the first day the trial is scheduled to start. She feels her support will be important, and she also wants to ride herd on the proceedings, as she does not trust the impartiality of the court.

When the judge sees how young Juan is, he starts to make an objection.

Immediately, Despina jumps unbidden to his defense. Elegantly arching one eyebrow in a way that signals to Juan that something good is coming, causing him to lean in closer, Despina says, "I thought you wanted the best translator for the job, not a stereotyped age, sex, race, and religious profile filled."

The lawyer sputters trying to keep a straight face. The sheriff, who is escorting the prisoner, casts a sharp glance in her direction, afraid the judge will declare her in contempt of court.

"Are you prepared to vouch for his translation?"

"Fully prepared," she shoots back, meeting his eye. Seating herself boldly next to the lawyer, she suggests that some of the more important terms might be provided with simple definitions. Excusing himself, he returns with a weighty law dictionary.

Laughter ripples through the courtroom.

"I trust you realize this is NOT a classroom," the judge snaps.

As the charges are read, Juan speaks softly to the Indian in Náhuatl. Once he looks at Despina and says one English word. Quickly, she finds the term in the law book. The words used to describe it are barely in her reading vocabulary. Wordlessly, she tips the volume toward Juan. He reads, then speaks.

Cu joins them at the lawyer's table.

"Will the gentleman be translating?" inquires the judge.

Juan looks hesitantly at Cu. He relays the question to Cu, in Spanish this time.

"No," comes the laconic response. Cu is present at the lawyer's table each day for the rest of the trial, never saying another word.

Despina resumes her duties in the classroom, only hearing about how it goes later from Mickey when he joins the campfire circle one night after work..

Last updated 2/25/02.

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