‘Historic appointment’: Tribal leader named Treasurer of the United States
Tuesday, June 21, 2022
By Acee Agoyo
Another Native woman is making history at the highest levels of government thanks to President Joe Biden.
Lynn Malerba, the lifetime chief of the Mohegan Tribe, has been chosen to serve as Treasurer of the United States, the Biden administration announced on Tuesday. She is the first Native person to serve in the leadership role, which has been vacant for more than two years.
As Treasurer, Malerba will serve as a key adviser to Secretary Janet Yellen, who is creating history of her own as the first leader of the Department of the Treasury to visit Indian Country. Coinciding with the announcement, the pair are meeting in the afternoon with leaders of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.
Chief Lynn Malerba of the Mohegan Tribe is seen on the right posing with Indian royalty following the conclusion of the White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C., on September 26, 2016. The event was the eighth and final one of the Barack Obama presidency. It was not carried on by Donald Trump during his one term in office. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
In addition, Malerba will oversee the newly created Office of Tribal and Native Affairs at her department. The developments direct fresh attention to a federal agency where Indian Country’s needs have often been overlooked.
“I am deeply honored that Chief Malerba will serve as the nation’s Treasurer and spearhead the department’s new Office of Tribal and Native Affairs,” Yellen said in a news release as she traveled to the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. “This is an historic appointment.”
“Her leadership and experience will deepen our commitment to help expand economic opportunities for all tribal communities,” Yellen said of Malerba.
Malerba has already been furthering her expertise as part of the Treasury Tribal Advisory Committee. She was one of the first members named to the panel, which was established through an act of by Congress in order to address long-standing issues affecting taxation, economic development and finance
in Indian Country.
“I am honored and humbled by Secretary Yellen and the Biden administration’s commitment to ensuring that all voices are heard by Treasury as we work together to create an equitable and just society,” said Malerba, who became the first woman to serve chief of her tribe following a stint as the first woman chair.
“It is especially important that our Native voices are respected,” Malerba added. “This appointment underscores this administration’s commitment to doing just that. I am excited to serve our communities as Treasurer and for the work ahead.”
Chief Lynn Malerba of the Mohegan Tribe addresses the White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C., on September 26, 2016. The event was the eighth and final one of the Barack Obama presidency. It was not carried on by Donald Trump during his one term in office. Photo: National Congress of American Indians
Since Malerba’s position does not require confirmation from the U.S. Senate, she can begin her work immediately. Besides advising Yellen and overseeing the Office of Tribal and Native Affairs, her portfolio as Treasurer includes the U.S. Mint, which just released a quarter featuring the likeness of Wilma Mankiller, who was the first woman elected to lead the Cherokee Nation.
And in another first for a Native person, Malerba’s signature will soon be appearing on U.S. currency, along with that of Yellen’s. The Treasurer position has direct oversight of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
Malerba has been a consistent presence in Indian policy affairs, including the White House Tribal Nations Summit that President Biden revived last year after it had gone dormant during the prior administration. She provided the opening blessing on the second day of the event on November 16, 2021.
Also on the second day, Secretary Yellen announced her intent to become the first leader of the Department of the Treasury to travel to Indian Country. She said she was motivated to do more after learning about the struggles faced by entrepreneurs on tribal lands.
Indianz.Com Video: Shayai Lucero – Earth & Sky Floral – White House Tribal Nations Summit
Not long after taking office earlier in 2021, Yellen heard from
Shayai Lucero, a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna who runs a business on her tribe’s reservation in New Mexico. She said she realized that her department, despite being one of the most important in the U.S. government, was falling short as the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on people’s livelihoods.
“As we surveyed our department in those early days, we realized we didn’t have the adequate personnel, or resources, to help her,” Yellen said of her conversation with Lucero, owner and operator of Earth & Sky Floral Designs and Gallery.
As COVID-19 impacted American Indians and Alaska Native at disproportionate rates, the Biden administration worked closely with Congress to pass the American Rescue Plan Act in March 2021. The law provided $20 billion in relief to tribal governments, plus another $10 billion for Indian Country programs, for a combined historic investment of more than $30 billion.
The initiatives are being touted as Yellen meets with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe on Tuesday. Ahead of the high-level engagement, President Scott Herman told Indianz.Com that the United States must continue to do more to carry out its treaty and trust obligations.
“America must honor its treaties, and that means protection and restoration of Indian lands, education, health care, roads, agriculture, housing, broadband, and help to make our reservations livable homes,” Herman told Indianz.Com on Tuesday morning.
Herman also welcomed the announcement of a new office to oversee Indian issues at Treasury. He said it represented the fulfillment of a long-overdue request of the tribe, whose leaders recently celebrated a legal and policy victory for their treaty right to adequate health care.
“The Rosebud Sioux Tribe called upon the Treasury Department to establish the Tribal Nation Relations Office and the Secretary did,” Herman told Indianz.Com. “The Rosebud Sioux Tribe thanks President Biden and Secretary Yellen for the American Rescue Plan and its tribal government programs.”
The tribe is utilizing American Rescue Plan funds to improve infrastructure on its reservation, which encompasses some of the most economically disadvantaged counties in the nation. Investments are largely being directed toward housing and broadband projects, including a number of efforts in which resources go directly to homeowners and families to help address the needs Herman outlined as crucial to the trust and treaty relationship.
And in a nod to concerns raised by Lucero about entrepreneurs in Indian Country, the American Rescue Plan opened the State Small Business Credit Initiative to tribal governments. Treasury has provided a preliminary allocation of $8 billion to Rosebud in order to support small businesses on the tribe’s reservation.
Overall, Treasury can provide up to $500 million to tribal governments as part of the initiative. Applications are being accepted through September 1.
Relevant Documents: Treasury Department and Tribal Nations