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Osage Nation officials discuss 10-day network outage, system upgrade efforts

The outage impacted departments and programs throughout the Nation due to no access to work email, databases and other online services

The Osage Nation government workforce suffered a 10-day computer network outage paralyzing many everyday office activities due to no access to work email, databases and other online services, prompting extensive efforts by the Information Technologies Department to start repairs and upgrades to the system. 

After the network returned online, an all-employee email sent by Wahzhazhe Communications on Feb. 15 stated: “Beginning Monday, February 5, 2024, Osage Nation’s Intranet experienced a massive storage malfunction, which resulted in a complete network outage. The outage is not a security breach, and data remains safely secured. Immediately following the malfunction, Osage Nation’s Information Technologies (ONIT) Department worked alongside network experts to repair and upgrade our system.” 

The ON Congressional Government Operations Committee met on Feb. 22 to discuss the outage and Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear spoke first to the committee. The outage impacted departments and programs throughout the Nation and Standing Bear said he reached out to ON Health Services CEO Mark Rogers after the outage’s first few days to get guidance from his expertise. 

When the outage started, the Nation’s IT Department Director Bill Fenton and Secretary of Administration James Weigant had contractors come to help fix the issues, but were unsuccessful after a few days. “I personally don’t think the system should be down more than 24 hours, that’s just my view, so I said ‘whoever you have on contract, it’s not getting fixed, and so I’m bringing in reinforcements. The company that Mark Rogers recommended was Konica Minolta,” Standing Bear told the committee. 

Efforts then started to get Konica Minolta hired to fix the outage and that work is still continuing. Costs and more planning are still unknown and developing. “I asked my staff ‘how can we get these people on board?’ and right now we’re just borrowing time from the Health System budget and we need to find a way to pay this,” Standing Bear said, adding he’s also been in discussions with Congresswoman Jodie Revard (also Congressional Appropriations Committee chair) who asked about the network costs and whether Congress needs to appropriate more funding. 

“(Revard said) ‘well how much would it cost to make sure the system’s back up and basically stabilized?’ and I said ‘I don’t have that, I’m trying to find out,’” Standing Bear said of the conversations on cost. The contract efforts have started with Konica Minolta submitting a proposal as Standing Bear said he wanted an assessment from a company that was not previously involved with the Nation’s IT network. 

Standing Bear said Konica Minolta has submitted a “six-week plan of assessment of what’s been going on and what it looks like right now and they’ll work with our in-house staff to get a budget.”  

Jaime Veira, an engagement manager for Konica Minolta, joined the committee meeting virtually and said the company has two groups working with the Nation with one group working with the Health System on a migration project and a second one focused on the outage repair and any upgrades.  

Second Speaker Pam Shaw asked if the Nation’s data and constituent information was put at risk during the outage. 

“No, the data and information from the constituents of the Osage Nation or the Osage Nation government was never at risk, we did not have any indication of being hacked or anything malicious happening. This was just an equipment failure,” Fenton responded and added more analysis work is being conducted on the outage. 

Congressman John Maker asked if obsolete equipment also caused the outage. 

Fenton said “yes, it compounded the problem because our system was considered ‘end of life,’ ‘end of support,’ so when the system went down, we did not have support from the company itself and so we had to find support from other means to try and fix the problems. Definitely lesson learned. This was a system that we bought in 2019.” 

Fenton said the storage system of the one that went down needs replacing and a solution is needed since it’s considered ‘end of life’ and noted the assessment “that we’re getting from Konica Minolta to let us know what the best direction is for us to head in and to help us make sure we don’t have this type of issue or mitigate the risk of having this type of issue in the future.” 

Congresswoman Brandy Lemon, current committee chair, told Fenton she felt if there was a revolving plan to include replacing IT equipment as needed then the outage may have been prevented.  

Fenton said: “Yes, we do have systems in place that identify the health of the network, those are monitored constantly, anything that happens or pops up, the engineer team gets an alert, they get on those right away. Anything that’s complex, they come to me and I put that up the chain of command … As far as the plan of replacing equipment and having that strategy and stuff, I will say we need to do a better job of that because obviously we didn’t do well here and I take total responsibility for that … I am very confident that with us working with Konica Minolta and getting the recommendations on what we need to do to move forward, we are going to be in a much better spot than we are today.” 

For more ON Congressional information on sessions, committees and to view filed legislative documents, visit the Legislative Branch website at: https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/who-we-are/legislative-branch  

Author

  • Benny Polacca

    Title: Senior Reporter

    Email: bpolacca@osagenation-nsn.gov

    Instagram: @bpolacca

    Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

    Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

    Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

    Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

    Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.

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Benny Polacca
Benny Polaccahttps://osagenews.org

Title: Senior Reporter

Email: bpolacca@osagenation-nsn.gov

Instagram: @bpolacca

Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.

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