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Rosebud Sioux Tribe and Janet Yellen
Native dancers take a photo with U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and newly appointed U.S. Treasurer Lynn Malerba during a visit to the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota on June 21, 2022. Photo by Kevin Abourezk
‘We’re always looking to the Seventh Generation’
Rosebud Sioux Tribe shares vision in historic visit from Treasury Department
Wednesday, June 22, 2022

MISSION, South Dakota – Jillian Waln has given this speech before.

The Rosebud Economic Development Corporation isn’t like other companies, she’s told potential investors.

Its primary aim isn’t to make money and benefit stockholders, she’s told tribal leaders.

REDCO exists to improve the lives of Rosebud tribal citizens for at least the next seven generations, she’s said countless times before.

On Tuesday, the young Lakota woman gave the speech to an audience of one – U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

“With every decision that we make, we’re always looking to the Seventh Generation and how the work that we’re doing is going to impact the future,” said Waln, community engagement coordinator for REDCO.

Department of the Treasury Video: Secretary Yellen at Rosebud Sioux Tribe

On a day of firsts, Yellen became the first sitting national treasury secretary to visit a reservation Tuesday when she traveled to the Rosebud Reservation to fulfill a promise she made last year to begin visiting tribal nations to expand her department’s engagement with tribes.

Yellen was joined by Marilyn “Lynn” Malerba, a lifetime chief of the Mohegan Tribe, who was named this week by President Joe Biden as the next treasurer of the United States.

“For the first time in history, a Native woman’s name will be the signature on our currency,” Yellen told Rosebud tribal leaders Tuesday. “With this announcement, we’re making an even deeper commitment to Indian Country.”

Yellen also announced Tuesday the establishment of a new Office of Tribal and Native Affairs within the Treasury Department. She said Malerba will oversee that office, which will coordinate tribal relations throughout the department and handle the department’s American Rescue Plan programs affecting tribes.

“We look forward to working with tribal nations in Congress to make this office permanent so it will be there for decades to come,” Yellen said.

Janet Yellen and Scott Herman
Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, left, listens as President Scott Herman of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe provides opening remarks at Sinte Gleska University on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota on June 21, 2022. Photo by Kevin Abourezk

She said the Treasury Department’s Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program has provided $20 billion to tribal governments to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and help tribal business recover.

From affordable housing projects to increasing internet access, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s use of federal COVID relief funds demonstrates how tribes across the country have benefitted from federal relief, Yellen said. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe spent $6.3 million of those funds to help 700 low-income families in need of emergency rental assistance, she said.

She said much work remains to support tribes and help repair the impact of failed past federal policies.

“There is a lot of history here and a lot of matters that need to be addressed,” she said. “The Biden administration is very committed to trying to make a positive difference.”

Indianz.Com Audio: Secretary Yellen delivers remarks on first visit to Indian Country

During her visit Tuesday, Yellen and Malerba met with Rosebud tribal leaders, as well as leaders from other Native communities in South Dakota. They also visited a greenhouse built by REDCO and learned about an ambitious economic development project underway on the reservation called Keya Wakpala Woicageyapi (KWW).

KWW is a housing, retail and recreational project planned for a 600-acre site near Mission. The tribe has begun work on the first phase of the project, which includes 10 single-family homes, retail space and a multi-use community hub called the Sicangu Innovation Center.

Malerba encouraged Rosebud tribal leaders to remain hopeful in the Biden Administration and its efforts to revitalize tribal nations.

“As we said earlier today, there is no one-size-fits-all for Indian Country, and each Indian tribe gets to decides for themselves what their priorities are, how they manage their programs and how they create their programs,” she said. “But we know that without economic development, we can’t keep our people on the reservations, or we can’t keep our economies strong.”

Yellen and Malerba finished their visit with a ceremony on the Sinte Gleska University campus, where they heard from tribal leaders, viewed a cultural presentation by Native singers and dancers and received gifts of star quilts.

Rosebud Sioux Tribe President Scott Herman thanked them for visiting his reservation and listening to his people’s concerns.

“It felt like we haven’t been listened to for many years,” he said. “But today, today it was really a good session. Our secretary was attentive. She listened to our problems.”

“I thank her for that. As we long have her help, we can move forward as a tribe.”

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