Joe Biden on Tuesday announced his intention to appoint Marilynn Malerba, lifetime chief of the Mohegan Indian Tribe, as US treasurer, marking the first time a Native American’s signature will appear on US currency.
The US treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, who is visiting the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota on Tuesday, also announced the creation of a new treasury office of tribal and Native affairs, which will report to the treasurer and administer tribal relations.
Malerba’s appointment by Biden will also allow Yellen’s signature to be added to the US currency, as this was prohibited without a US treasurer in place. Dollar notes have been printed since Yellen took office last year with the former treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin’s signature on them.
The appointment helps reduce a long list of unfilled and unconfirmed senior positions at the Treasury.
The treasurer position has been vacant since January 2020, when Jovita Carranza left to become small business administrator in the Trump administration. The US treasurer directly oversees the US Mint, the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, and storage of about $270bn worth of gold at Fort Knox, and is a liaison with the Federal Reserve.
Malerba’s appointment to the position no longer needs confirmation by the US Senate.
“With this announcement, we are making an even deeper commitment to Indian Country,” Yellen said in prepared remarks to be delivered at the Rosebud Sioux reservation. “Chief Malerba will expand our unique relationship with tribal nations, continuing our joint efforts to support the development of tribal economies and economic opportunities for tribal citizens.”
Malerba, who had a lengthy career as a registered nurse, has been chief of the Connecticut-based Mohegan tribe since 2010 and previously chaired its tribal council and served as its executive director of health and human services, according to the Mohegan website.
The Treasury said Malerba will join Yellen at the Rosebud Sioux reservation on Tuesday, where Yellen will discuss the impact of about $3bn in federal Covid-19 aid to tribal governments.
Yellen’s visit to the Rosebud Sioux reservation marks the first time that a treasury secretary has visited a tribal nation – department officials said they could find no record of a prior visit.
Yellen will tour programs at the reservation that are using nearly $200m in funds from last year’s American Rescue Plan, including $40m worth of affordable housing projects.
The Treasury on Tuesday also announced that it had approved the tribe’s plan to use more than $160,000 to upgrade its broadband internet infrastructure under a $10bn broadband fund for state, local and tribal governments.