Osage Nation Breaks Ground on National Telecommunication Information Administration (NTIA) Broadband Expansion Projects

Broadband NTIA Groundbreaking Event

The Osage Nation hosted national and state leaders in the broadband industry on Monday, March 4, 2024, for Wahzhazhe Connect’s groundbreaking on its National Telecommunication Information Administration (NTIA) broadband expansion projects. The event held at Wakon Iron Hall in Pawhuska kicked off construction funded by $40.6M in federal grants to the Osage Nation to build out high-speed fiber optic broadband throughout the Osage Nation. Special guests included Tom Perez, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. “High-speed Internet is like water,” said Perez. “It’s a critical public necessity that needs to be affordable and accessible to everyone. That’s why the Biden-Harris Administration has invested $90 billion to ensure communities across the country, especially rural areas and Tribal nations like Osage Nation that have frequently been left behind, are connected to the pipeline to opportunity that reliable internet provides.”

Alan Davidson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, hosted a Roundtable Discussion at 11:45 a.m. featuring Osage Nation staff members and Osage residents. The panel was organized for Davidson to hear firsthand how broadband would impact the Osage Nation, stressing that their goal at NTIA is to create a “future–proof network.” Panel participants included Dave Evans, a resident of Pawhuska Senior Housing; Wayne Ray Mitchell, a rancher and member of the Grayhorse Village Board; Michael Bristow, a health professional and member of the Osage Nation Health Authority Board; Dr. James Trumbly, Director of Wahzhazhe Connect; Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear; Talee Redcorn, member of the Osage Nation Minerals Council; Braxton Red Eagle, Director of the Osage Nation Language Department; and Mary Wildcat, Director of the Osage Nation Education Department. 

NTIA Groundbreaking Ceremony

The panel discussion was followed by a tour of Wahzhazhe Connect’s facilities. Dave Madden, Wahzhazhe Connect’s Warehouse Manager, shared how they maintain their extensive broadband equipment inventory.  

The groundbreaking ceremony at 1:30 pm was celebrated by esteemed members of the Osage Nation Congress, staff, community members, and numerous media outlets. Speakers included Chief Standing Bear, Perez, Davidson, and Trumbly, along with Wahzhazhe Connect Project Managers Drew Tiger and Kelbie Witham. 

Following the groundbreaking, a cultural discussion was hosted for staff members attending from NTIA. Osage Nation staff hosting the presentation, including Herman Sleeper, Isaiah Lasley, and Noah Shadlow, discussed how broadband could utilized for cultural programming through the Osage Nation Cultural Center and Language Department.

The day culminated with a traditional dinner at Wakon Iron Hall hosted by Wahzhazhe Connect’s Kelbie Witham. Cooks Dana Bear and Rose Primeaux prepared a delicious meal of corn soup, meat gravy, candied yams, frybread, salad, and desserts for NTIA staff. The NTIA cohort of staff members from throughout the United States will remain in the Osage Nation for a three-day training workshop focused on working with tribal communities that are also building broadband networks in their respective communities.