Treasury Secretary, US Treasurer visit Lakota Country



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Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen addresses tribal officials and others gathered at the Sinte Gleska University earlier this week. Photo by Vi Waln.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen addresses tribal officials and others gathered at the Sinte Gleska University earlier this week. Photo by Vi Waln.

Rosebud, S.D. – Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen spent a day meeting with South Dakota’s Tribal Presidents in a visit hosted by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.

The visit included stops at St. Francis Indian School, Ojinjinkta Housing Development Corporation, Keya Wakpala Community Garden and Sinte Gleska University.

“I promised to visit Indian Country and I couldn’t be more gratified to have had this chance to visit with you today,” stated Secretary Yellen. “Treasury and administration are deeply committed to partnering with you. We know that the programs the government is now implementing are by no means sufficient to remedy centuries long inequities and injustices but it’s a start. And it’s a start I think we can build on in the years to come. I am excited to continue this journey with you as even deeper partners. Thank you very much for hosting me.”

Rosebud is “making history as far as having a visit by the Secretary of the Treasury,” stated Scott Herman, President of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. “We had a very productive meeting this morning.”

Lynn Malerba (Mohegan), newly appointed Treasurer of the United States, addresses the gathering held on the Rosebud Reservation. Photo by Vi Waln.

Lynn Malerba (Mohegan), newly appointed Treasurer of the United States, addresses the gathering held on the Rosebud Reservation. Photo by Vi Waln.

The trip was the first ever to Indian Country by a sitting Secretary of the Treasury. Secretary Yellen visited with several Tribal Presidents about the impact of American Rescue Plan funds on supporting overall recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic. Secretary Yellen was also interested in how tribal leadership is working to expand economic opportunity for their citizens.

Secretary Yellen was accompanied by Lynn Malerba (Mohegan) newly appointed Treasurer of the United States to serve under the Biden/Harris administration. Malerba is a Lifetime Chief of the Mohegan Tribe.

“For the first time in history a Native woman’s name will be the signature on our currency,” stated Secretary Yellen. “With this announcement, we’re making an even deeper commitment to Indian Country. The treasury is establishing an Office of Tribal and Native Affairs in the Office of the Treasurer, which will be responsible for treasury wide tribal work.

“Treasurer Malerba will expand the unique relationship with tribal nations, continuing joint efforts to support the development of tribal economies and economic opportunities for tribal citizens. Importantly we look forward to working with tribal nations and congress to make this office permanent so it will be there for decades to come.

“There is no one size fits all for Indian Country,” stated Treasurer Malerba. “Each Indian tribes gets to decide for themselves what their priorities are and how to manage their programs and how they create their programs. But we know without economic development we can’t keep people on the reservations. And we can’t keep our economy strong.

“It’s been illuminated to listen to you discuss the deep challenges that you and tribal nations around the county face and hear your thoughts on how we can partner together to accelerate economic recovery for all tribal citizens,” Secretary Yellen stated. “I’ve spent my entire career thinking about economic policy and how it can help people during hard times and then create longer term opportunities. I see a great deal that policies can do to support tribal communities, Tribes are the backbone of local communities and tribal governments are often the largest employer of your citizens in residents in surrounding areas. Simply put, reservations are centers of economic opportunity for millions of tribal and non-tribal members and they merit deep investment by federal government and our private sector partners.

“Yet, despite the efforts by tribal governments to develop their economies, significant inequities exist. Many have their roots in prior federal policy. According to the US Commission for Civil Rights, broken promises report, over twenty five percent of Native Americans live in poverty. In certain tribes, over half of their citizens live in poverty. For Native Americans living on reservations, the unemployment rate is around fifty percent and those numbers are unthinkably high.

“The last two years have been hard for everyone, but they have been especially difficult for Native American communities. Tribal communities have had some of the highest COVID mortality rates in the country. And the data shows that few suffered more than Native American workers and enterprises during the pandemic. In addition to the pain the pandemic caused tribal families and communities, this disproportionate impact resulted in the loss of critical tribal revenue that supports government services for tribal citizens in need.

“The American Rescue Plan, signed by President Biden in March 2021, provided much needed relief. It injected billions of dollars into tribal communities across the country. This legislation is led to an historic investment in Indian Country. Our flagship program, the fiscal recovery funds, provided $20 billion dollars to tribal governments to help fight the pandemic and help tribal households and businesses recover. Tribes across the country, including [the Rosebud Sioux Tribe], used these funds for vaccination efforts to protect their tribal citizens.

“Some places like Rosebud, are using the funds for affordable housing projects. Others, such as the Quechan are providing assistance to tribal members who own small businesses that have been negatively affected by COVID-19. To date, ninety nine percent of this fund has been distributed and has benefited 2.6 million tribal citizens across the US.

Visitors enjoyed a small wacipi in the evening. Secretary Yellen and Treasurer Malerba participated in a round dance with tribal officials and the general public.

Lynn Malerba (Mohegan), newly appointed Treasurer of the United States, addresses the gathering held on the Rosebud Reservation. Photo by Vi Waln.

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