Skip to main content

Pauly Denetclaw
ICT

For the first time in the history of the United States, a Native woman’s signature will appear on U.S. currency.

Chief Lynn Malerba, Mutáwi Mutáhash (Many Hearts), Mohegan Tribe, has been named as President Joe Biden’s appointment to be the next U.S. treasurer – the first Indigenous person to hold that position. The appointment no longer needs to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

“I am honored and humbled by Secretary (Janet) 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,” Malerba said in a press release. “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.”

James Gessner Jr., chairman of the Mohegan Tribe, said the appointment is well-deserved.

“This appointment is an honor for her and for our tribe,” Gessner said. “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.

“Her appointment is another positive step by the Biden administration to show inclusiveness with Native Americans and ensure we have a seat at the table of the federal government,” Gessner said. “We congratulate Lynn on this incredible appointment. The Nation will be stronger with her serving in the administration.”

LynnMalerba

Treasury officials also announced the creation of the Office of Tribal Native Affairs, which will be overseen by Malerba. The office will communicate directly with tribes and be a hub for tribal policy.

Malerba comes from a long line of Mohegan leadership. Her mother holds the position of Tribal Nonner, an elder female of respect, and her great-grandfather was Chief Matagha. In 2010, Malerba was appointed the Lifelong Chief of the Mohegan Tribe and the first woman in the tribe’s modern history to hold that role.

Related:
— Deb Haaland marks first year in office
Biden administration brings changes to Indian Country
Deb Haaland highlights Indigenous progress

She also served as chairwoman of her tribal council and as executive director of the tribe’s Health and Human Services.

Scroll to Continue

Read More

Malerba currently sits on the Board of Trustees for the Chelsea Groton Bank, which has more than a dozen banks across Connecticut in 10 different cities. She is chair of the Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee of Indian Health Service, a member of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Tribal Nations Leadership Council, a member of the Tribal Advisory Committee for the National Institute of Health, and a member of the U.S. Treasury’s Tribal Advisory Committee. 

“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. This is an historic appointment,” Yellen said. “Her leadership and experience will deepen our commitment to help expand economic opportunities for all Tribal communities.”

Malerba graduated from Yale University with a doctorate in nursing practice. Prior to being a tribal leader, Malerba was a registered nurse and worked her way up to becoming the director of Cardiology and Pulmonary Services at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital.

Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians, applauded Biden’s choice.

“There is much work to be done to enhance economic development opportunities, achieve governmental tax parity for Tribal Nations, and address Indian Country’s capital needs,” Sharp said. “The creation of this office and Chief Malerba’s pending appointment are truly historic and positive steps toward these goals. The importance of Native American leadership, partnership, and representation within the Department of the Treasury cannot be overstated.”

Cristina Danforth, board president for the Native American Finance Officers Association, likewise praised the decision.

"It is with great pride and enthusiasm that we welcome the first-ever Native American Treasurer of the United States,” Danforth said. “Chief Malerba has demonstrated a strong lifelong commitment to supporting the growth of tribal economies. She has been an active and instrumental member of NAFOA for many years, and we look forward to continuing to work with her to support the needs of Indian Country,”

The new Office of Tribal Native Affairs will work with Indigenous leaders, who have raised many issues with the Treasury Department when it comes to grant funding, tax credits and other incentives.

Malerba’s signature will be featured on future U.S. currency. This would be the first time an Indigenous woman's signature is on U.S. currency. A Cherokee Nation citizen, Houston Benge Teepee, served as Register of the Treasury from 1915-1919 and signed U.S. notes along with the U.S. Treasurer.

Yellen visited the Sicangu Lakota Oyate homelands in South Dakota on Tuesday, June 21. Her visit marked the first time a Treasury secretary had visited a tribe.

New ICT logo

*Correction: Lynn Malerba, Mohegan, will be the first Indigenous woman to sign the U.S. currency. From 1915-1919, another Indigenous person, Houston Benge Tepee, served as Register of the Treasury and signed currency along with the U.S. Treasurer. 

Our stories are worth telling. Our stories are worth sharing. Our stories are worth your support. Contribute $5 or $10 today to help ICT carry out its critical mission. Sign up for ICT’s free newsletter.