Remarks by Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen at Chief Lynn Malerba’s Swearing in Ceremony as the United States Treasurer
September 12, 2022 / Source: Treasury
Good afternoon, everyone. It’s a privilege to welcome you to the Treasury Department for today’s historic ceremony.
I want to particularly welcome the Tribal leaders and community members who are here with us today. Whether you are joining in person or virtually, thank you for being a part of today’s event.
I would like to acknowledge Interior Secretary Haaland and members of the Treasury Tribal Advisory Committee for being with us today. Former Treasurer Rosie Rios, welcome back to the Treasury Department. And of course, a special welcome to Chief Malerba’s family, who is here with us.
One of the great joys of my job is getting to swear exceptional leaders into office. Not only because I gain a new colleague. But because the oath that they take is a sacred reminder to all of us that we assume the offices of public trust for one reason: to help and serve the public.
And sometimes, we also get to make history.
Today, we are swearing in Chief Lynn Malerba as the next Treasurer of the United States. Appointed by President Biden, Chief Malerba is the first Native American to serve as Treasurer. Soon – for the first time in our history – a Native woman’s signature will be on our nation’s currency.
Since 1775 – even before the establishment of the Treasury Department – the Treasurer has served a critical role in safeguarding our nation’s economic wellbeing.1 In recent decades, the Treasurer has worked closely with the talented leadership and professionals at the U.S. Mint, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and other key institutions. The Treasurer has also been a key liaison to underserved communities across the country on matters of financial security and economic inclusion. These responsibilities are broad and important.
Yet Chief Malerba is taking on even more. She is leading the newly established Office of Tribal and Native Affairs, which is charged with coordinating Tribal policy and engagement across the Department.
We are establishing this office with Chief Malerba at the helm because we know that – for all our progress – there is more work to do to strengthen our nation-to-nation relationship with Tribal governments. Even before the pandemic hit, the poverty rate for Native Americans was twice the national average.2 Tribal citizens had a higher unemployment rate than any other racial group.3 These economic disparities were rooted in prior federal policy, and they were only exacerbated by COVID-19.
I believe we currently stand at an important moment in the relationship between the federal government and Indian Country. In the two and a half years since the pandemic hit, the Treasury Department has been tasked with distributing a historic amount of relief and investment into Tribal nations – including over $30 billion in direct aid to Tribal governments. As I saw in my visit to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in June, these funds have literally saved lives by helping fight the pandemic. They have also addressed longstanding needs in Tribal communities, such as affordable housing and broadband access.
But just as important as what we did was how we did it. As we invested in Tribal communities, we sought to strengthen the trust between Treasury and Indian Country by expanding our direct engagement. And through these engagements, we listened. The feedback that we received from Tribal leaders improved the design and execution of our recovery programs.
The new Office of Tribal and Native Affairs will build on this progress. We have staffed the office with Tribal citizens who have worked over the past year and a half to administer recovery programs. This office will serve as a hub for Treasury’s portfolio of issues related to Indian Country. It will lead Treasury’s nation-to-nation diplomacy on issues regarding the economic security of Tribal nations. It will provide expertise internally across policy offices and Bureaus, and push for increased interagency collaboration and cooperation on Tribal economic development.
The office is a key part of the historic actions that the Biden administration has taken to support Tribal communities. The administration’s approach is rooted in our respect for – and commitment toward – our nation-to-nation relationship, trust and treaty responsibilities, and Tribal sovereignty and self-determination.
There are few more suited for the challenge of leading this office than Chief Malerba.
As many of you know, Chief Malerba is the 18th and lifetime chief of the Mohegan Tribe. She made history as the first woman chief in the Tribe’s modern history. And even as we welcome her into this new role, I am glad to say that Chief Malerba is no stranger to Treasury. Chief Malerba was an inaugural member of Treasury’s Tribal Advisory Committee, a seven-member committee that advises the Treasury Secretary on Tribal taxation and related issues. I have greatly appreciated her advice in that role. And I am grateful to have even more of her counsel in this new one.
Chief Malerba – congratulations on your appointment to this office. I am looking forward to working together to build a strong and inclusive economy that works for everyone.
Now, I invite your family to join me on stage for the administering of the oath of office.