Mutáwi Mutáhash Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba | Photo via The Mohegan Tribe/Facebook
The past two years continue to usher in “firsts” for Indigenous representation in U.S. politics. The latest appointment, at the top levels of federal government, will see the first Native American person to serve as U.S. Treasurer.
President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced his intent to appoint Mutáwi Mutáhash Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba, who is chief of the Mohegan Tribe based in Connecticut. Malerba will also lead the U.S. Department of Treasury’s new Native affairs office.
The Treasurer directly oversees the U.S. Mint, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and Fort Knox. Malerba will also serve as a key liaison with the Federal Reserve.
According to 2020 U.S. Census data and research from Advance Native Political Leadership, an Indigenous-led group working to increase representation of Native peoples in U.S. politics, Indigenous peoples make up just 0.03% of elected officials despite representing at least 3.4% of the total U.S. population.
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland became the country’s first Native American cabinet secretary in March 2021.
Haaland announced last week that she has launched the first-ever Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Council (STAC), which is made up of tribal members from 12 regions of the country. Whitney Gravelle, president of the Bay Mills Indian Community in Michigan’s eastern U.P. area, was selected as the primary member representing the Midwest region.
In a Treasury Department statement, Malerba said of her appointment: “It is especially important that our Native voices are respected. 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.”
In 2010, elders of the Mohegan Tribe gave Malerba a lifetime appointment to serve as the tribe’s first female chief in modern history. She served as the tribal council’s chairwoman and executive director of health and human services previously.
“The Mohegan Tribe and its members have benefited tremendously from the leadership of Chief Lynn Malerba, and we are thrilled that she will now bring her expertise, energy, and compassion to the role of Treasurer of the United States,” said James Gessner Jr., chairman of the Mohegan Tribe, adding that her appointment is “another positive step” to ensure Native Americans have “a seat at the table of federal government.”
Malerba’s appointment was announced on the same day that U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen received a tour of the Rosebud Sioux reservation in South Dakota, which marked the first time in history someone in that position has visited a tribal nation in their official capacity.
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