Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation Works With Del Norte County to Provide More Law Enforcement to Smith River Area

Press release from the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation:

Tolowa Dee-ni' Nation logoOn Thursday September 21, 2017 the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation (Tribe/TDN) approved a Memorandum of Understanding between the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office (DNSO) and the Tribe, that the Sheriff will then present to the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors for execution on Tuesday September 26, 2017.

Tribal Chairperson Scott Sullivan stated, “The Tribe has always been generous to the community, but this agreement exemplifies our commitment to increasing public safety and formally demonstrates the Tribe’s contributions to the community.”

The Tribe and the DNSO share a mutual goal of maintaining a safe and secure community for the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation Reservation and surrounding Smith River area, and share the belief that a community-involved approach to law enforcement is the best avenue to achieve this goal.

Both Parties recognize that due to a lack of County resources, the TDN Reservation and Smith River area receive inadequate sheriff response and coverage, and the Parties wish to bring equitable law enforcement to the Smith River area. The Parties further recognize that Public Law 83-280 (Public Law 280), adopted in 1953, significantly impacts the law enforcement responsibilities of the Sheriff’s Office and that Public Law 280 continues to have a substantial effect on the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation.

In January of this year, the Tribe sent Tribal Citizen Wade Owen to the College of the Redwoods to complete the necessary Police Academy training to become a reserve deputy. Owen was raised in Smith River before serving in the Air Force and ultimately returning to Del Norte County. Owen stated, “I am excited to serve the Tribe and the greater community in this role with the Sheriff’s Office. As a Tribal Citizen, I am in a unique position to provide a law enforcement presence for this area and community.”

In an email from Sheriff Apperson he wrote to the County Counsel “The Tolowa Dee-n[i]’ Nation has stepped up [to] the plate and provided a quality individual to help augment our currently strained law enforcement team by paying his way through a police academy and all of the related expenses that came with that. He has proven himself to pass all of our internal and externally governed hiring qualifications. He is ready to serve and we are ready to have him serve.”

This MOU is the beginning of a working relationship between the Tribe, the County, and the Sheriff. This partnership is seen as a positive step in bringing awareness to the Smith River area’s needs, and speaks to the Tribe’s commitment to its people and the community.

About the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation

The Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation is a federally recognized, self-governing Indian Nation governed by the Tribal Council, which is comprised of seven (7) elected members. The Mission of the Nation is, [t]o exert and protect the inherent sovereignty endowed upon the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation to promote our tribal identity, and the wellbeing of our people, community, and environment by building a strong foundation, managing resources, and perpetuating our cultural lifeways and legacy.

With over 1,700 tribal citizens, and an aboriginal territory that spans from Sixes River in Oregon to Wilson Creek in California, the Nation has a Bureau of Indian Affairs five county near reservation service area that includes Humboldt and Del Norte in California and Curry, Coos and Josephine in Oregon. 54% of our population lives within the service area, with the highest resident population being Del Norte County with 489 residents at 30%, and the second being Curry County with 208 residents at 12%.



  • Joni Forsht, Retired Deputy Sheriff/Coroner and last Resident Deputy to serve my Community of Smith River.

    So grateful to the Tolowa Dee-Ni’ Nation for giving us the opportunity to once again have a Deputy in our Smith River Area. Your comittment to our Valley and your eagerness to bring the community together makes me proud to live here.

  • My personal thank you with deep appreciation for the Tolowa Dee-ni Nation and Sheriff Epperson.
    Smith River Neighborhood Watch and Joni Forsht. This was a personal dream to combine efforts and once again have Law enforcement in our town of Smith River. This is a grand day!
    My appreciation and gratitude.
    Beverly Van Dyke

  • This is very exciting for our community!

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