Chief Lynn Malerba
For the first time ever, the U.S. dollar will soon feature the signatures of two women: Janet Yellen, Treasury Secretary, and Chief Mutáwi Mutáhash (Many Hearts) Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba, the U.S. Treasurer.
While you’ve probably heard of Yellen, who’s been a Washington mainstay since the Clinton years, Malerba may be a less familiar name. She was appointed by President Joe Biden in June and sworn in as the nation’s 45th treasurer in September. She is the first Native American to serve in the role, and she will be the first Native woman with a signature on U.S. currency.
“One of the great joys of my job is getting to swear exceptional leaders into office,” Yellen said before administering Malerba’s oath of 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,” she added.
Like past treasurers, Malerba oversees the U.S. Mint, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and Fort Knox, which is home to about half the Treasury’s stored gold. She is also a liaison with the Federal Reserve.
However, Malerba’s passion and biggest potential for impact lies in the roles carved out especially for her. In 2010, Malerba was named the Mohegan Tribe’s 18th chief, making her the first woman to hold the lifetime position in the tribe’s modern history.
So in addition to advising Yellen on community development and public engagement broadly, Malerba leads a newly established Office of Tribal and Native Affairs. This office will coordinate the Treasury Department’s tribal policy and help tribes deal with the unique challenges of operating on reservation lands.
For example, unlike state and local governments, tribes cannot offer tax incentives to encourage business or issue bonds to fund major projects, Malerba told the Associated Press in an interview earlier this year. The poverty rate for Native Americans is more than twice the national average, and the unemployment rate among tribal citizens is higher than any other racial group — problems that have only been made worse by the pandemic, Yellen noted in September.
“We know that when barriers to economic development are eliminated, tribal communities will thrive and prosper. We know, when there is tribal economic development, our local and state communities prosper as well,” Malerba said at her swearing-in.
“When tribes succeed, everyone succeeds,” she told the AP.
Following her oath, Malerba provided her official signature: Lynn Roberge Malerba. (She originally wanted to sign “Chief Lynn Malerba,” but it turned out the use of a title violates Treasury rules.)
“I am emotional about signing this currency because I used my maiden name as part of my signature, which is Roberge and that is my middle name,” said Malerba, adding that her parents raised seven children and often struggled to provide for them. “Imagine, now their name is on the currency when they found it so difficult to have any in their lifetime.”