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Chief Malerba: 'A foot in both worlds'

In the very week when the high school seniors of eastern Connecticut have been hearing graduation speakers tell them to hold on to their dreams and prepare to lead, President Biden has appointed Lynn Malerba as treasurer of the United States.

Chief Lynn Malerba of the Mohegan Tribe is one of this region's best known and most respected leaders. Now, as the 45th treasurer and the first Native American to serve in the post, she will have her signature on the nation's currency. Her name will be out there for everyone who holds a U.S. dollar in their hand. That is a mighty fulfillment of youthful dreams and ambitions, and richly earned.

In addition to the authority of overseeing the U.S. Mint, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and Fort Knox, and serving as a key liaison with the Federal Reserve, Malerba will head the Treasury Department's newly created Office of Tribal of Native Affairs. She has been working with Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen on pandemic recovery funding for tribes as a member of the Treasury Tribal Advisory Committee.

Her work for Treasury comes under the Biden administration's commitment to including tribal voices in decisions that affect Native Americans. But Chief Mutáwi Mutáhash (Many Hearts), Marilynn Malerba, has been doing nation-building work not only for the Mohegans but on behalf of other Native American tribes for decades.

Her qualifications to serve as a key player both in tribal and monetary matters date back to the 1990s, when she left a successful career as a nurse manager at Lawrence+Memorial Hospital to become the Mohegans' Health and Human Services director. The Council of Elders assigned her to identify the most pressing needs of the tribe and develop policies to benefit the members. From that came senior housing and life services, youth summer camp and education support so that members could earn degrees and take on leadership roles.

Malerba herself has a doctoral degree in nursing practice from Yale University, a master's degree in public administration from the University of Connecticut and a bachelor's degree in nursing from the College of St. Joseph.

As she told Day Staff Writer Karen Florin about modern tribal nations in a podcast interview in April 2021, "We all have a foot in both worlds, and we know that." Florin, who also interviewed Malerba when she became Mohegan Chief in 2010, noted that the former Tribal Council chairwoman — the first woman in that job — moved as easily on Wall Street and in Washington, D.C. as she did in Uncasville.

At 68, Malerba is of a generation that remembers when tribal voices went unheard at upper levels of government. After gaining federal recognition, the tribe's success in building the Mohegan Sun casino and other properties came fairly quickly, compared to the centuries of loss of land and population. She sees the expanded role of the U.S. treasurer as meant to assist tribes that still need economic growth.

The chief speaks appreciatively of the Montville community, both tribal members and others. She was a kid from Uncasville. She is related to the generations of Fielding family members who saved Mohegan culture by preserving the language and holding on to original property that had become the site of the Mohegan Church. Historically, she is the second woman to serve as chief — the first since the 1700s.

Tribal, governmental and community leaders who have worked with Malerba applauded the news of her appointment. She will continue to serve in her lifetime role as chief but will step down from the chairmanship of the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut Board of Trustees.

On Tuesday, just as her appointment was announced, Malerba accompanied Yellen to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Janet Yellen is the first treasury secretary to visit a tribal nation. Visits to tribes ought to become regular stops on the itineraries of other Cabinet secretaries — Commerce, Agriculture, Health and Human Services and Education among them. Having a Native American of Lynn Malerba's qualifications serving as treasurer of the United States, in addition to Deb Haaland of the Laguna Pueblo as Secretary of the Interior, should make tribal nations hard to overlook.

The Day congratulates Chief Lynn Malerba and wishes her success in her work on behalf of all the American people. We look forward to seeing those dollar bills.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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