“Wahzhazhe Connect” Brings Broadband Network and Jobs

Press Release
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OSAGE NATION, OKLA. (December 20, 2022) – In late summer 2022, the Osage Nation received multi-million-dollar grants to build a “Fiber Optic Broadband Network” designed to bring faster and more reliable internet connectivity to residents and businesses throughout the Osage Nation service area. The competitive grants include a $40.6 million Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program Grant and a $13.9 million ReConnect3 Grant Program from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In response, the Osage Nation has formed a new department known as Wahzhazhe Connect, which is currently building staff to support the critical broadband infrastructure for the Osage Nation under the Secretary of Development Christian Johnson. The construction project will lay more than 200 miles of fiber optics and erect 16 towers throughout the Osage Nation service area over the next two years.

“These grants are game changers for the Osage Nation and all those who reside in our service area,” said Secretary Johnson. “We need experienced folks who can manage these massive projects efficiently and without delays. I am excited about how this team is coming together and look forward to progress updates as they continue to push forward.”

Wahzhazhe Connect is led by Dr. James Trumbly, who brings more than 40 years of experience in the Information Technology field as a Project Manager and Systems Analyst. “We have a strong team made up of talented Wahzhazhe professionals and we plan to hire more positions in the coming months,” said Trumbly, who has served on the faculty at the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas at El Paso. Trumbly also worked as the Sr. Project Manager for the Program Management Office (PMO) while with Electronic Data Systems (now Hewlett Packard on the MCI/WorldCom Account overseeing the PMO for the entire Network Infrastructure organization. He is a Certified Project Management Professional from the Project Management Institute, has worked with the Federal Government as a defense contractor for Air Force Research Laboratory, and served in Afghanistan as a system designer and trainer.

Dr. Trumbly is joined by new Wahzhazhe Connect staff members (in alphabetical order):

Emily Akers: Administrative Manager  

Emily manages Wahzhazhe Connect’s complex administrative functions by coordinating with Osage Nation entities, contractors, and sub-contractors. Emily manages departmental accounting, grant processing and reporting, determining potential sources of data to generate reports, assisting in the contracting process directly with Osage Nation procurement, hiring and employee resources, purchase processing, and accounts payables. Emily is detail-oriented with strong professional, interpersonal, organizational, and customer service skills. She graduated from Rogers State University with a B.S. in Business Administration.

Kiersten Dailey: Procurement Coordinator

Kiersten drives all of Wahzhazhe Connect’s activity involved in obtaining goods and services needed to support daily operations of Wahzhazhe Connect’s staff, contractors, and sub-contractors. Kiersten’s responsibilities include sourcing, negotiating terms, purchasing items, receiving and inspecting goods as necessary and keeping records of all the steps in the process. Kiersten brings 10 years of professional experience working for the Osage Nation. Most recently, she handled procurement and other professional services for Wahzhazhe-owned Dailey Technologies, a software company based in Tulsa.

Russ Tallchief: Communications Specialist

Russ leads communication efforts for Wahzhazhe Connect through ongoing coordination and collaboration with the WahZhaZhe community and surrounding service area. Russ brings 25 years of professional experience in arts, culture, and education. In the past, he served as Director of Student Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Oklahoma City University, Art Galleries Editor for Native Peoples Magazine, and worked in Education and Public Affairs at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian in New York. He holds a B.A. in Communication, an M.A. in English, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, and has taught college writing at Oklahoma State University-OKC, Rose State College, and Oklahoma City Community College.

Kelbie Witham: Warehouse Manager

Kelbie manages thousands of tons of fiber optic and construction materials and coordinates equipment inventory used by Wahzhazhe Connect’s staff and construction crews. Kelbie oversees vast operations at the warehouse to ensure that all incoming and outgoing inventory is processed according to schedule. Kelbie has worked in the Telecommunication industry since 2017, primarily with T-Mobile, where she actively facilitated the building and creation of new products by collaborating with T-Mobile’s systems analysts, project manager, and the operations team. Kelbie attended Arkansas Tech University where she studied Marketing and Management.

Future Job Opportunities:

In addition to these talented professionals, Wahzhazhe Connect will also hire the following positions in the near future:

  • Project Managers (Two Positions): The Project Managers will work on multiple projects simultaneously within the broadband expansion. The experienced manager will create and manage project plans, define project schedules, allocate resources and monitor progress, deliver and install technology solutions, manage risk, tracking process, monitor and manage project scope, manage all project documentation, foster partnerships with customers, stakeholders and sponsors, and other duties listed in the job description.
  • Data Analyst: The Data Analyst will be responsible for reviewing the data requirements for the Broadband grants and ensuring that the proper data is collected and reported to the granting agency. The analyst will determine the nature and type of data that needs to be collected, the best source for that data, collecting the identified data, analyzing the data, and generating the required reports to be delivered to the proper authorities.

Training for Field Work: Wahzhazhe Connect is partnering with Tri County Tech to offer paid employment training for prospective field technicians interested in helping build the broadband infrastructure. Course instructors are experts in the construction and maintenance of broadband infrastructure and will offer field exercises in the training program. Classes begin in early 2023.

“The Tri County Tech curriculum will train potential field technicians in technical skills needed to support the construction project,” says Dr. James Trumbly, director of Wahzhazhe Connect. We are grateful to Andrea Kemble, director of the Osage Nation Financial Assistance Department, for supporting the training by offering financial support for Wahzhazhe trainees to be paid during the training program. Classes will begin in early 2023 and lunch will be provided for Native American trainees.”

The training curriculum covers fiber optic field work, from basic safety skills to laying fiber optic cable in the ground to aerial construction and towers. The “Essential Fiber Optics, Splicing, Termination, and Testing” course covers the basics of fiber optics and equipment used to service fiber optic systems. The “Aerial Telephone Line Placement and Safety” course instructs technicians on how to safely attach and remove Telecom cable to poles, including instruction in electrical safety rules, regulations, standards, best practices, and pole top rescue. Additional courses will be offered later in the curriculum to include trainings in more advanced areas of field engineering.

“Tri County is very pleased to partner with the Osage Nation on the development and delivery of this training,” says Tara Gotwalt, Chief Instruction Officer for Tri County Tech. “Tri County Tech was recently the recipient of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to be directly used for providing Broadband Fiber Optic Training in our district. Tri County looks forward to providing a variety of short-term training courses for those looking for new careers in the Broadband Fiber Optic industry.”

Native applicants interested in joining the team, please contact Tim Lookout in the Osage Nation Financial Assistance Department at financial-assist@osagenation-nsn.gov  

Additional job opportunities with Wahzhazhe Connect, visit www.osagenation-nsn.gov/job-opportunities.

For media and general inquiries, please contact Russ Tallchief at russ.tallchief@osagenation-nsn.gov or visit https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/services/wahzhazhe-connect.