Letter: Davina Smith of Monument Valley to Direct Salt Lake City Air Protectors


Dear Editor,

Davina Smith (Diné) is now the new executive director for the SLC Air Protectors. She was elected to this role on April 3 by the SLC Air Protectors Council of Directors. Ms. Smith joins the SLC Air Protectors after serving as the director of operations at our sister nonprofit organization, Utah Diné Bikéyah (UDB), which is a central partner in the designation of Bears Ears National Monument and its ongoing work to restore Bears Ears back to its original boundaries.

In her professional and personal life, Ms. Smith lives by this cultural teaching she inherited from her ancestors: “There is beauty before me, there is beauty behind me. There is beauty to my left, there is beauty to my right. There is beauty above me, there is beauty below me. There is beauty around me, there is beauty within me. One that forever lives the trail of harmony and greatness.” Originally from Monument Valley, Utah, Ms. Smith has lived most of her professional life away from the Navajo Nation in Salt Lake City.

“As the newly appointed Executive Director for the SLC Air Protectors, I intend to embrace wholeheartedly the SLC Air Protector Mission,” Smith said, who added that she’s thrilled to led the SLC Air Protectors in improving air quality, protecting the natural environment and supporting Native American stewardship in Utah through inclusive grassroots organizing. “Throughout the years, I’ve experienced and have witnessed the many injustices in areas such as education, healthcare, land protection, and environmental racism. My hope is to bring awareness and advocacy, so that we can work towards a restorative process in healing to all people and the Earth.”

Ms. Smith’s passions include advocating for Native students and families, in both her rural and urban communities. In her former role with UDB, she helped build the nonprofit’s foundation in education, cultural preservation and established community-wide partnerships in these fields.

Davina also served as a project director for the American Indian Teacher Training Program (AITTP), both at the University of Utah and Arizona State University. AITTP recruits and advocates for Native Americans to become secondary and elementary school teachers. In addition to this professional background, Ms. Smith is also involved in the creation of documentary films, including her most recent film, “Unspoken Native American Boarding Schools.” She has also participated and co-authored, “Strong Marriages for Navajo Couples,” a research study through Utah State University.

In response to Ms. Smith’s new role, SLC Air Protector Co-founder and former Executive Director, Michael Cundick issued the following statement, “This is such a good step for us and an example that I hope inspires organizations everywhere! We have exploded onto the scene of conscious activism on behalf of the people and planet in just a very short time frame and I know that by making this transition and even more deeply honoring our commitment to indigenous leadership, this platform is going to create a legacy of good for our valley for generations to come!”

Cundick added that he will remain as a SLC Air Protector board member, and will help guide Ms. Smith in how to organize against issues like the Inland Port Resistance and connecting the nonprofit’s network with tree planting and community gardening opportunities. “I am so, so proud of this organization. Please join me in a spirit of gratitude and welcoming Davina for stepping in and taking us to the next level,” Cundick added.

SLC Air Protectors