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Wahzhazhe Connect project will oversee broadband implementation for reservation

Coupled with some smaller projects in Grayhorse, Bowring and Hominy, the new system will bring high speed internet to nearly all of Osage County.

The Osage Nation is looking to hire and train field technicians for its massive $54.5 million broadband project.

That Nation announced Dec. 20 that starting in early 2023, it will begin paying Native Americans to train as field workers to build the project, which has to be completed in under two years under the terms of the federal grants that are funding the operation.

The training curriculum will cover fiber optic fieldwork, from basic safety skills to laying fiber optic cable in the ground to aerial construction and towers, according to a press release.

The “Essential Fiber Optics, Splicing, Termination, and Testing” course will cover 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,” said 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.”

In addition, the Nation is hiring two project managers and a data analyst for the project, called Wahzhazhe Connect.

The project is led by James Trumbly, who has a doctorate and more than 40 years of experience in Information Technology as a project manager and systems analyst. He has been on the faculty for the universities of Oklahoma and Texas (El Paso) and worked as the senior project manager for the program management office at Electronic Data Systems (now Hewlett Packard). He also was a defense contractor for Air Force Research Laboratory and served in Afghanistan as a system designer and trainer.

The Nation expects to lay more than 200 miles of fiber optic cable in Osage County and erect 16 towers in the next two years.

Coupled with some smaller projects in Grayhorse, Bowring and Hominy, the new system will bring high-speed internet to nearly all of Osage County. It is being funded by a $40.6 million grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and a $13.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

“These grants are game changers for the Osage Nation and all those who reside in our service area,” said the Nation’s Secretary of Development, Casey 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.”

Thus far, Wahzhazhe Connect has hired:

* Emily Akers, who has a B.S. in Business Administration, as administrative manager;

* Kiersten Dailey, who most recently handled procurement for Dailey Technologies in Tulsa, as procurement coordinator;

* Russ Tallchief, who has worked for 25 years in the arts and education, including in public affairs at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City, as communications specialist; and

* Kelbie Witham, formerly of T-Mobile and other telecommunications companies, as warehouse manager.

Native applicants interested in joining the team should contact Tim Lookout in the Osage Nation Financial Assistance Department at financial-assist@osagenation-nsn.gov. Additional job opportunities with Wahzhazhe Connect can be found at www.osagenation- nsn.gov/job-opportunities

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Louise Red Cornhttps://osagenews.org
Louise Red Corn has suffered from wanderlust for decades: She has lived and worked as a journalist and photographer in Rome, Italy, New York City, Detroit, Kentucky, Mississippi and Oklahoma, where she published The Bigheart Times for 12 years. She loves diving in-depth into just about any topic but is especially fond of covering legal issues, perhaps because her parents were both lawyers. She is married to Assistant Principal Chief Raymond Red Corn, who enticed her to move to the Osage Reservation in 2004. She and her husband live south of Pawhuska with one extremely large dog named Max, one extremely energetic dog named Pepper, and, if he bothers to make an appearance, a surly cat named Stinky.
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