As Connecticut Celebrates Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Mohegan Chief Sworn in as U.S. Treasurer


Merren Ballester, NFA Red & White Reporter

What was once the celebration of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America has transformed in recent years to a time to celebrate the Indigenous people who inhabited the land long before Columbus’ arrival. California first began celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day in 1992 to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Columbus. In 2021, President Joe Biden officially commemorated Indigenous Peoples’ Day with a presidential proclamation.

This year, indigenous peoples are even more prominent locally because of the recent appointment of Mohegan Chief Lynn Malerba to the position of Treasurer of the United States. “I am honored to be the first Native person to be the Treasurer of the United States and by being in that position will (start) up the Office of Tribal and Native Affairs, which will then be a permanent office within the Treasury,” said Malerba.

The purpose of the Office of Tribal and Native Affairs will be to ensure that all voices are heard, and that tribes have a direct line of communication to the Federal government. Chief Malerba said the Office of Tribal and Native Affairs will be working with the nation’s tribes to create “equitable and just” federal policies, as they relate to Native populations. 

Chairwoman Janet Yellen of the Federal Reserve said that it was important to have a Native person in this role because “Her leadership and experience will deepen our commitment to help expand economic opportunities for all Tribal communities.” 

The thoughts that tribal members have had are that “Chief Malerba’s appointment brings great pride to Mohegan. Our leaders have had a major impact on our continued resilience and growth over many centuries. The recognition Chief Malerba had brought to the Mohegan Tribe with this latest accomplishment demonstrates that our people are relevant and continue to thrive in modern society” said by Jennifer Harris Ballester, Mohegan Tribe Member. 

For the thousands of tribes, this day has become an opportunity to showcase their unique heritage and history beyond their reservations. The movement celebrates the history, contribution and resilience of Indigenous peoples – past, present and future. The local Mohegan Tribe, whose ancestors lived throughout Southeastern New England are one of the many tribes who are proud to celebrate this day. “While it may be reflected on this one day, the recognition that this country has abundantly benefitted from our lands and natural resources is something that should never be forgotten,” said Chief Malerba.

The celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day directly combats false narratives of discovery and colonization and replaces it with a celebration of people across the Americas. Today, Indigenous people’s are vastly underrepresented in history, media, and culture. While there are nearly 7 million citizens who identify as Native American in the United States, they are lacking representation in mainstream media and history books post 1900.

Acknowledgement of Indigenous Peoples’ Day welcomes the opportunity to demonstrate the important role Indigenous people have played in American culture and still today in the modern world.

Over the course of the years there have been many reports of missing Native American women, that authorities have done nothing about.  

Many tribes paint a red hand print over their mouths out of solidarity with the missing indigenous women and girls in North America, also to represent the thousands of women who have been silenced. “There is patchwork of jurisdiction making it difficult to hold non-Native predators accountable,” Malerba said.

According to National Geographic, the National Crime Center documented that as of March there were more than 5,000 missing Native American women recorded. “The White House has convened a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Task Force to begin to address the issue,” said Malerba.