Representative Phil Lyman will face Davina Smith in November


Monument Valley • As Davina Smith rode her Oreo horse on Thursday afternoon, the sun was shining on Monument Valley’s iconic red sands, but the chilly breeze was almost freezing.

Smith, her father, Roy, and other family members accompanied her to the Navajo Nation stables, where Smith’s umbilicus was buried the day she was born. They then rode to the Monument Valley Welcome Center.

With Monument Valley and Bears Ears as the backdrop, Smith – a Democrat – stood in front of a crowd of supporters and announced her candidacy for the Utah House of Representatives, making her the Diné (Navajo) woman. first ran for state office in Utah. 125 years history.

(Zak Podmore | The Salt Lake Tribune) Davina Smith (left) and her father Roy Smith ride to the Monument Valley Welcome Center on Thursday, December 16, 2021.

“We were taught like the Diné,” says Smith, “our umbilical cords were buried as children by our mothers. [in a place] where we know we will be back. I have returned.”

The one-hour journey on horseback, Smith explains, is connected to a longer journey that she has accompanied throughout her career in health care, education, business development, and more. economic and policy advocacy, including campaigns to protect the Bears’ Ear and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah.

“Since I was a little girl,” she said, “I’ve been through so many journeys in my life, whether it’s traumatic, whether it’s the celebrations. But I’ve taken every journey thinking ‘What does it teach me?’ … We have an ancestral history of resilience. ”

Smith acknowledges that consolidating the newly reconfigured 69 Building, which includes all of San Juan, Grand, Kane, Garfield and Wayne counties as well as parts of Emery County, can be challenging.

Two massive and controversial national monuments in the county – Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante – have been the focal point of local public land debates long before they were abandoned by former President Donald Trump. size cut in 2017 and restored to original boundaries by President Joe Biden in October.

Smith’s likely opponent in next year’s race for the state throne, Firebrand’s conservative Representative Phil Lyman (R-Blanding), is a big contender for both monuments. Lyman is sentenced on federal misdemeanor charges related to an ATV rally he helped organize on federal land in Recapture Canyon in 2014 when he was a San Juan County commissioner. Then he spent 10 days in jail and was pardoned by Trump at the end of last year.

Lyman won his current chair after a landslide in 2018. defeat Marsha Holland was independent with 67.5% of the vote.

But the Legislature developed new voting maps after the 2020 Census made Lyman County no longer a Republican stronghold.

“Over the past 10 years, Moab has been divided into two different counties,” said Talin Hansen, chair of the rural caucus for the Utah Democratic Party.

Grand County, where Moab is located, is “the only safe Democratic rural district in the state,” Hansen said. San Juan County, which coincides with the Navajo Nation and Ute Ute Mountain reserve, is a more revolving county, he added, with the district committee currently under Democratic control.

Two counties in southeastern Utah make up the majority of the population in the 69th House. The county still holds a Republican majority, but Hansen believes a Democrat can win.

“It’s almost poetic,” he said, “Phil Lyman has a solid challenger from the Navajo Nation going up against him in a county where he’s going to have to really struggle to hold on.”

Navajo National Assembly Representative Charlaine Tso, whose county includes parts of San Juan County, said many Utah Navajos feel like their voices are not being heard at the state level, adding that she ” very honored and humbled” in supporting Smith’s campaign.

“This is the history we are making,” said Tso, “The Navajo, the Diné woman, and the first Native American [run for] this seat. ”

James Adakai, Smith’s uncle and former chairman of the San Juan County Democratic Party, called Smith’s campaign announcement “lifting spirits.”

“I know that we can do more to improve government,” he said. “We can do more to have more representation, especially in the multicultural community that pervades this county.”

Smith said she’s looking forward to campaigning throughout southern Utah and listening to voters’ concerns. “One of my teachings is “Listen with your heart and speak from your heart”.

“We need rural communities to thrive,” she continued. “Here in my community we still lack support for roads, water, electricity, internet, youth programs, economic growth and development. I lived it. I can’t see enough.”

(Zak Podmore | The Salt Lake Tribune) Davina Smith stands near the Colorado River on August 15, 2019, with a bunch of medicinal plants she collected at Bears Ears National Monument. Smith ran 320 miles from Bears Ears Buttes to Salt Lake City.

Over the past few years, Smith, a long-distance runner, has completed two multi-week hikes from southeastern Utah to Salt Lake City, carrying bundles of traditional potions.

“I always run,” she said. “So now I’m going to run in this race.”

Zak Podmore is a Report to the US corps member and wrote about conflict and change in San Juan County for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant will help him continue writing stories like this; Please consider creating a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here. Representative Phil Lyman will face Davina Smith in November

Yasmin Harisha

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