WASHINGTON (AP) — Mohegan Chief Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba was sworn in Monday as the Treasurer of the United States, the first Native American to hold that office.
Her signature will now appear along with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on U.S. currency.
Yellen hailed the appointment at the Treasury Department ceremony as a sign of the Biden administration's “respect for, and commitment toward, our nation-to-nation relationship, trust and treaty responsibilities, and Tribal sovereignty and self-determination.”
“For all our progress — there is more work to do to strengthen our nation-to-nation relationship with Tribal governments," Yellen said in prepared remarks.
They were joined by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to lead that department, and members of Treasury’s Tribal Advisory Committee.
Malerba, who will remain lifetime chief of the Mohegan Indian Tribe which is made up of roughly 2,400 people, previously worked as a registered nurse, and has served in various tribal government roles.
Biden appointed her U.S. treasurer in June and as overseer of a new Office of Tribal and Native Affairs at the Treasury Department.
She is tasked with finding new ways to help tribes develop their economies to overcome challenges that are unique to tribal lands, among other responsibilities.
As part of the ceremony, Malerba signed a book presented by Bureau of Engraving and Printing Director Len Olijar, who will engrave her signature. Her official signature will appear as “Lynn Roberge Malerba" in honor of her maiden name.
A Treasury official said her name will appear on currency in the coming months.
“We all know that, historically, many promises have not been kept to the indigenous peoples of this nation. But we can and will do better,” said Malerba, who wore a red and black tribal ensemble and matching headdress. “My appointment is a promise kept.”
“When barriers to economic development are eliminated, tribal communities will thrive and prosper," she said. "We know, when there is robust tribal economic development, our local and state communities prosper as well."
She added that the moment made her think deeply of her parents. “My name will be on currency, when it was so difficult for them to get money in their lifetime,” she said during the ceremony.
For Malerba, she said she hopes her presence at Treasury will help other Americans feel pride in honoring their culture.
“Katantuoot, wuyunomsh United States qa wuyunomsh kiyawin,” she said. “Great spirit bless these United States and bless us all.”
Fatima Hussein, The Associated Press