Q&A with Glendon Smith, the new Oregon State Police liaison to the 9 Tribes of Oregon

Glendon Smith was hired in June 2023 as the first Oregon State Police liaison to the nine tribes of Oregon. In March, he visited the Klamath Tribes to introduce himself to the Tribal Council and the Public Safety Department and sat down with the Klamath Tribes News to discuss his role in his new position.

So, you’re the new liaison for the Oregon State Police. What was the hiring process for your position?

I was selected for an interview. I only did one round of interviews, and I was selected on the day that I did the interview, so it was a surprise. The former captain, Tim Fox, hired me into the position, and he retired last November. I have a new supervisor named Captain Kevin Marquis. So, his boss is Major Turner. Major answers to Deputy Superintendent Josh Brooks. Joshua answers to the superintendent, Casey Codding, with OSP.

Are you a former State Police officer?

No. I served as an associate judge for my tribe, Warm Springs, where I enrolled. So, I was there for 10 years. Two years ago, my term ended. I was on the 28th Tribal Council for Warm Springs. And I served as the Secretary-Treasurer two separate times for the tribe, which is equivalent to General Manager for the Klamath Tribes, George Lopez’s position.

What inspired you to become a liaison for the troopers, and not only a liaison but the first one?

I wanted a new perspective. So, I started applying for some jobs. And I got hired by Paid Leave Oregon last year and worked there for two months. Paid Leave Oregon is a new program that rolled out last year that offers protective leave for victims and mothers with newborns. So, it offers more chances or opportunities for employees to take leave. I don’t know a whole lot about it, but it’s a new program that the State Legislature passed. And I was kind of the tribal guy for that program. And then I wanted to stay involved with tribes somehow. And, so, I saw this job opening, I applied for it, and ended up getting it.

Is it through the State Police Office?

Yes. Oregon State Police hired me. They just opened this position last year. It’s brand new.

How did that come about? And why, all these years, was there no liaison?

I can’t really answer that. I know in 1996, Governor Kitzhaber passed Executive Order 9630, I think it mandates the state to collaborate and coordinate with tribes as a matter of law. So, OSP has always had a staff assigned to do tribal relations, but they’ve never hired anybody. In 2023, they finally said, “Well, we need to go ahead and open this position and hire someone to focus on this work.”

Is it related to the MMIP (Missing or Murdered Indigenous People) initiative?

Yes. That’s part of my job focus is to coordinate with the tribes. You know, MMIP Coordinators. I recently met the Klamath Tribes’ MMIP coordinator, Elyesse Lewis. Also, OSP has a trooper that’s assigned to the MMIP Initiative, Cord Wood. He is the Captain for OSP and is the point of contact.

What is your goal as the Liaison?

My goal is to bridge the gap between tribes, all tribes, and OSP to bring a better understanding of tribes to OSP and vice versa to try to, you know, create a stronger understanding and working relationship between the sovereign nations of Oregon and OSP. However, there needs to be more communication and education between the two. So, I’m hoping that we can at least clear up the uncertainty and work together better.

What do you feel are the greatest uncertainties? And what problem with communication have you personally experienced as a Warm Springs tribal member?

One thing at the top of the list is that when you talk to a tribal member, any tribal member in Oregon, that doesn’t mean you speak for all the tribes; you know, you might be speaking for your own tribe. You know, that doesn’t give the total perspective for all the tribes, so I think people need to understand that. All tribes are different; every tribe has its own culture, language, songs, history, and foods that are important to it. And that’s a big learning curve for anybody, even for other tribes. I think before I came on, there were a lot of cross-jurisdictional issues that happened between OSP and the tribes. And those issues need to be sorted out so it doesn’t become a tug of war between two different law enforcement agencies and more of a mutual understanding of authority and perspective.

Has anything surprised you on the job, something you didn’t expect, or something you’ve learned that you didn’t see coming into the job?

I’m not surprised, really. I’ve been educated, especially with some of the tribes. I’ve been assigned to do the tribal government and the government report for OSP. And what I’ve learned is that each tribe has its own issues. Like for Klamath Tribes, there is looting and cultural trespassing on archaeological sites. Warm Springs deals with a lot of vehicular crash data between the reservation and Madras. There needs to be better developments on the highway, so that way there’s more safety. The Umatilla, they deal with narcotics trafficking, drug use, and drug sales. On the coast, it’s a lot of looting of artifacts on the ocean – ocean sites. They got tribal land on the ocean. Grand Ronde, they deal with a lot of hunting violations, people hunting on tribal land are out of season. So there needs to be more communication there. I’m learning that there’s different issues for each tribe based on their geographic location, and what’s important to them, land statuses for example. Some tribes have more trust land, some tribes have more free land, and then there are tribes that have less land, and then it becomes complicated for enforcement purposes.

As you’ve learned all this and been around all the nine tribes, how has it helped the Oregon State Police? What have you brought to the table that they didn’t have before?

When I came on, we sent notices to all the tribes. I’m having these meetings with the tribal councils. My former boss and I traveled to the tribes and had face-to-face meetings. I didn’t get to meet with Klamath last year because I was out of southern training. But before I came on, none of the tribes would respond to the emails or phone calls, but now, since they have learned that there’s a tribal liaison who was a tribal member of a tribe, the responses have picked up, and OSP is happy about that; they see the importance of that; they see the difference of having a tribal liaison who’s an enrolled member versus a nonmember communicating for them. I bring a better understanding to OSP, of how tribes operate, and how to navigate tribal government. You know, I have that inside knowledge because I was on the council. I was a judge. I worked as a general manager, so I understand how to navigate processes better and what major documents need to be considered when you’re talking to tribes. OSP needs to educate themselves better on tribal history, how Native people exist, you know, stuff like that.

So, trust, you built some trust between the tribes and Oregon State Police. Has that been an issue in the past?

Yes, that has been an issue. There’s been a lack of trust between tribes and OSP. I see that, and that’s a big step in earning that trust back between the two. And then maybe, after that, we can start working better together on, you know, SB 412, cross-deputization, simultaneous authority in certain areas – the highways, the hunting areas, shared authority. If we can establish the trust back, those working relationships will get easier, and maybe people will put their guard down.

Do you have anything you want to add?

I want to thank the Klamath Tribes for having me here. It’s good to be back. I’ve met a lot of good people here. Everyone’s been welcoming, and it’s nice to meet you. Thank you for doing the interview. I look forward to working with the Klamath Tribes and everyone that I can help assist.