Weber State alumnus Pete Sands is chosen as Guardian of the Year by Time magazine for his work in helping the Navajo Nation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Weber State alumnus Pete Sands is chosen as Guardian of the Year by Time magazine for his work in helping the Navajo Nation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo credit: Pete Sands

Pete Sands, a Weber State University alumnus formerly known as Halbert Pete, was selected as a “Guardian of the Year” by Time magazine for his work in helping the Navajo Nation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When COVID-19 hit the United States, Sands was working as the communications director of the Utah Navajo Health System.

“Back in February of last year, there were just rumblings of the coronavirus,” Sands said. “It wasn’t a question of if it was going to get here; it was a question of when it was going to get here.”

Sands then worked with the clinic to organize a COVID-19 relief program for the Navajo Nation in Utah. They set up testing sites and helped deliver food, water and firewood to those in need.

The relief program started to gain national and international attention.

Time magazine chose to award Dr. Anthony Fauci and frontline health workers the 2020 award. The spotlight rested upon specific individuals throughout the world that had worked to make a difference on the front lines of the pandemic, including Sands.

Time had previously published a feature story about Sands and his work in its magazine in May.

“A photographer from Time came down and followed me around for about a day. I had a feeling I was going to be in Time magazine again, but I didn’t know it was going to be for this,” Sands said. “It’s a very high honor for me, one I hope that I’ll remember forever.”

The relief program continues, and Sands and the clinic are extending their aid to Native American groups in Arizona and New Mexico.

Sands, who hails from the Navajo-Indian reservation, is a filmmaker with his own small film company and crew, SidewinderTV, based out of Ogden. He says on his Storyhunter page that he learned a lot of his filmmaking skills from WSU.

However, Sands’ plans weren’t always aligned this way.

Sands graduated from WSU in 2008 with hopes of becoming a lawyer. However, he remembers getting accepted into law school and not feeling the passion and happiness he had once felt.

Sands remembers being asked what he was going to do instead. In response he pointed at the guitar in the corner. He was told he was crazy, that he was never going to make anything and that being a lawyer was what he had worked for.

It was then that Sands changed his passion from being a lawyer to going on the road and playing music seven nights a week. From there, his band, Pete Sands & the Drifters, was formed. It introduced Sands to the film world where he made cameo appearances on the show “Yellowstone” for several episodes.

Throughout his journey, Sands has always had one goal: to inspire and help others.

For Sands, his heart will always be here in Utah.

“I’ve been out in Hollywood, Nashville and Austin for so many years that I lost that part of me coming from this place,” Sands said. “Coming back here I’ve realized I can use all that I’ve done to help others, and hopefully inspire them, too.”

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