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Diné woman runs 360 miles to raise awareness on issues impacting Indigenous people

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – A 360-mile run to raise awareness on multiple issues impacting Indigenous people is scheduled to end at the Utah State Capitol on Monday, the week of the United Nations Civility Conference in Salt Lake City.

Davina Smith, Executive Director of the SLC Air Protectors, began running on August 13th from Bears Ears National Monument, carrying a sacred medicine bundle with other runners joining her along the way.

“For me, as an Indigenous Diné woman, the only thing I could think of is a prayer run. There are some people who think of a prayer run as religious, but it’s spiritual run and it’s me connecting to Mother Earth,” she said.

Davina Smith on a Skype call with ABC4 News on Day 5 of her 13-day run

Originally from Monument Valley, Smith said she’s running to bring awareness to issues such as Bears Ears National Monument, Utah Inland Port, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, family separation at the U.S. border, the Mauna Kea conflict, and environmental racism.

“The medicine bundle will be carried on a Navajo basket that was made right after the Long Walk of Navajo People (the U.S. government’s deportation and attempted-ethnic cleansing of Navajo people in 1864). That was my great, great grandmother’s, which was passed down to me and that signifies, to Indigenous people, generations and generations of trauma and atrocities. I have this basket to show that we are still here, the basket is still intact, it still has its beautiful colors, and it’s a blessing for all of us to be apart of it.”

According to their Facebook page, the SLC Air Protectors is a ‘Native American-led nonprofit organization that was inspired by Standing Rock to improve air quality, protect the natural environment and support Native American stewardship in Utah through inclusive grassroots organizing.’

“I see so much hurt going on all over the place and as a Diné woman, it’s about giving and helping others. This is the only way I know that we can heal across the state,” said Smith. “But this is not being put out there to say this is what’s going to stop these issues. It’s for people from organizations who are dealing with environmental racism and a other isms as well and working tirelessly against it. “

Eileen Quintana takes runners for traditional post-prayer relaxation.
Eileen is from the Near the Water clan.

“This journey has been so humbling and every moment has been amazing,” said Smith. “When I’m feeling fatigued, I think of these issues and epidemics I’m running for and it takes me to another level of meditation.”

Smith is expected to arrive at the Utah State Capitol on Monday. SLC Air Protectors will hold a press conference with speakers at 6:00 p.m.

“We’re asking for all of our allies, no matter what you’re fighting for, to join us on August 26th,” she said. “We’d love to have 10,000 people gathering with us at the Capitol at the end of all this.”

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