Six Osages are holding the newly established Osage Nation Cabinet Secretary positions and will oversee the various operations and departments under the Executive Branch.
The Cabinet Secretaries counsel the Principal Chief on various matters related to their respective offices, according to the Executive Branch. Under the new organization established by the Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear administration, the announced secretaries are:
- Vann Bighorse, Secretary of Language, Culture and Education
- Teresa Bledsoe, Secretary of Social Services
- Jann Hayman, Secretary of Natural Resources
- Christian Casey Johnson, Secretary of Development
- James Weigant, Secretary of Administration
- Nick Williams, Secretary of Public Safety
The Cabinet re-organization became effective on April 26, through Executive Order 22-01 to administer the ever-growing needs of the Nation, according to a news release. Over the past eight years, the Nation’s population has increased from 17,648 to 24,000-plus and tribal citizens and services have greatly expanded.
Each secretary officeholder previously held department director or appointed positions with the Nation with multi-years of experience among the individuals.
“Osage Nation has grown substantially over the past eight years and we must make changes to accommodate the increase in our population and services we provide,” Standing Bear said in a statement. “Each one of these secretaries has incredible knowledge and experience to continue supporting the needs of our thriving Nation.”
The Nation released a June 30 revised Executive Branch organization chart showing the secretary posts and which entities fall under their jurisdiction. Shared by the Executive Branch, the professional bios for the secretaries are as follows:
The Secretary of Language, Culture and Education oversees ON departments and entities including: Wah-Zha-Zhe Cultural Center, Visitors Center, Daposka Ahnkodapi, Education, Historic Preservation, Language, Museum and the Wah-Zha-Zhe Early Learning Academy.
- Bighorse is a member of the Osage and Cherokee Nations. His Osage name is 𐓰𐓘 𐓪𐓤𐓣𐓟. He belongs to the 𐓲𐓣𐓻𐓪 𐓷𐓘𐓯𐓰𐓘𐓤𐓟 Clan and comes from 𐓷𐓘𐓸𐓪𐓤𐓪𐓧𐓣͘, also referred to as the Pawhuska District. Bighorse started as an Osage language student in 2003 at Wakon Iron Hall along with four other students, under the guidance of respected tribal elder and Master Language Teacher Dr. Mongrain Lookout. From there, Bighorse continued his work and dedication to the revitalization of the Osage language and in 2020, he received his Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Kansas State University.
The Secretary of Social Services oversees Child Care & Development, Child Support, Financial Assistance, Constituent Services, Food Distribution, Social Services, Indian Child Welfare, Veteran Programs, Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
- Teresa Bledsoe is from the Grayhorse/ PahSueLee (𐓬𐓘𐓮𐓶𐓧𐓣͘) District and of the Eagle clan. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education and a Master’s in Education Administration, Bledsoe has led the ON Child Care & Development for almost four years. Bledsoe also worked as an educator and Indian Education Director for Woodland Public Schools. Certifications include an Oklahoma State Department of Education Teaching Certificate, Six Sigma Global Institute/Baldridge Foundation Project Management Certification (2021), and the Schnake Turnbo and Frank Leadership and Reputation Academy (2019).
The Secretary of Natural Resources oversees the Natural Resources Department including Environmental Programs, Heritage Trail and the operations for Harvest Land and The Butcher House.
- Hayman started working with the ON Department of Natural Resources in 2006 as a Natural Resource Specialist and then was promoted to Director in 2012. During her tenure, Hayman has worked with several of federal and state agencies to implement wildlife, oil and gas, and other environmental and natural resources programs. Recently, Hayman worked on food sovereignty initiatives for the Nation, including the development of the Harvest Land and Butcher House Meats facilities. Hayman holds a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Education with a minor in Animal Science and a Masters of Agriculture in Agriculture, both from Oklahoma State University. Earlier this year, Hayman earned a Doctor of Education from Kansas State University, where her research interests are related to the development and implementation of Native nation agriculture and agricultural education programs.
The Secretary of Development oversees entities including Tribal Development, Fitness Centers, Housing, Maintenance, Real Estate Services and Roads Department.
- Johnson retired as a First Sergeant after 23-years of service with the U.S. Army Infantry, including two combat tours in Iraq receiving a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He is a member of the Grayhorse/PahSueLee (𐓬𐓘𐓮𐓶𐓧𐓣͘ ) District and of the Ponca Peacemaker Clan. Johnson’s Osage name is 𐓸𐓶𐓵𐓘 𐓩𐓪͘ 𐓬𐓘𐓺𐓣 (Eagle Not Afraid). He is a graduate of the University of Central Oklahoma with a BS degree in Industrial Safety and holds 30 Master’s Degree hours in Administrative Leadership at the University of Oklahoma. He served as the Director of Operations for the Nation for nearly eight years before being promoted to the Secretary of Development.
The Secretary of Administration oversees entities including Human Resources, Information Technologies, Archives, Membership, Mailroom, Self-Governance and Strategic Planning and Wah-Zha-Zhe Communications.
- Over the past six years, Weigant has served the Nation as the Deputy Director of Operations, Housing Department Director, and as the COVID-19 Task Force Coordinator. His Osage lineage comes from his Fronkier side of the family. Weigant’s maternal grandfather, Frantz Fronkier, also worked for the Nation in the 1950s in the Minerals Department. Weigant holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma. Weigant also worked for the Oklahoma Municipal League, the Tulsa City Council, and Young Oil Tools where he ran the Remco Division.
The Secretary of Public Safety oversees the Nation’s Police Department, Emergency Management and Wildland Fire Management entities.
- Williams is the son of John W. and Frances A. Williams. He is from the Grayhorse/PahSueLee (𐓬𐓘𐓮𐓶𐓧𐓣͘) District and is of the Ponca Peacemaker clan. Williams is a US Air Force veteran and has served as ON Police Chief since 2011. Before working for the Nation, Williams worked for a Native-owned company named Chugach, an Alaskan 8A company based in Anchorage. In addition, he became an Environmental State Manager for the State of New Mexico and moved home to the Nation in 2005 where he started as a security officer for the former Osage Million Dollar Elm Casino. Williams then entered law enforcement and attended the Oklahoma Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET) and accumulated classroom training and years of service needed to obtain a CLEET Intermediate Certification.
Also, according to the organization chart, the Nation’s Treasurer post stands on its own and oversees the Office of Treasury, which includes Accounting, Accounts Payable, Compliance, Grants/ Budgets, Payroll, Procurement, Property & Asset Management and the Tax Commission.