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Pauly Denetclaw
ICT

Chief Marilynn “Lynn” Roberge Malerba, Mohegan Tribe, looked over at Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, before she began her speech on Monday.

“Deb, I see you weeping a little bit. Now, please don't make me cry too, Madam Secretary,” Malerba said after giving her signature that will be featured on U.S. currency.

Malerba was wearing her traditional regalia during her historic swearing-in as the 45th Treasurer of the United States. She is the first Native American to hold that office. She was sworn-in at the U.S. Department of the Treasury in Washington D.C.

Her signature will now appear along with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on U.S. currency.

Yellen hailed the appointment at the Treasury 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.

Malerba, a lifetime chief of the Mohegan Indian Tribe, a nation made up of roughly 2,400 citizens, previously worked as a registered nurse, and has served in various tribal government roles.

Biden appointed her treasurer in June and as overseer of a new Office of Tribal and Native Affairs at the Treasury.

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.

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“My parents raised seven children with so much love, but a lot of financial hardship. And they struggled so greatly to provide for us but they did an amazing job,” Malerba said. “Imagine now their name is on the currency when they found it so difficult to have it in their lifetime. They are with me today.”

The new Treasurer of the United States Lynn Malerba and Director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing of the United States Leonard Olijar, and Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen hold a document with the signature of Malerba, collected to be used for the United States currency, during a ceremony at the Treasury Department, Monday, Sept. 12, 2022 in Washington. Malerba became the first Native American to serve as Treasurer of the United States. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

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. "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."

For Malerba, she said she hopes her presence at Treasury will help other Americans feel pride in honoring their culture.

Lynn Malerba, Mohegan, the newly appointed U.S. Treasurer, addresses a gathering on the Rosebud Reservation on June 21, 2022. Malerba joined U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in meeting with tribal leaders in what is the first time a U.S. treasury secretary had visited a tribal community. (Photo by Vi Waln for ICT)

“It is such an honor to assume this office,” she said. “When I was sworn in as the Chief of the Mohegan Tribe, I noted that we walk in the footsteps of our ancestors on the trail of life and we must leave footprints on the trail for those who come after us, so that they may find their way easily. I now hope to help all the next generations of this United States find their way easily with respect for their ancestors and the unique cultures that they all represent.”

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The AP contributed to this report.

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