The announcement of the first Native Treasurer and formation of new Office punctuated the historic visit from the Secretary
SICANGU MAKOCE, Oceti Sakowin – Tuesday was a day of historic firsts and signaled the possibility of a new era in the relationship between the United States Treasury and Native Nations. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen become the first person in her role to visit a Native Nation. Additionally, she was accompanied by Chief Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba, who had been named as the next US Treasurer just hours earlier by President Biden. The visit also coincided with the Treasury’s announcement of the establishment of a new Office of Tribal and Native Affairs, which will report to the Treasurer and coordinate Tribal relations throughout the Department.
"With this announcement, we are making an even deeper commitment to Indian Country," said Secretary Yellen, in remarks delivered at Sinte Gleska University. She went on to acknowledge the “centuries-long injustices” that Native Nations are working to overcome, and committed to expanding the “unique relationship with Tribal nations, continuing our joint efforts to support the development of Tribal economies and economic opportunities for Tribal citizens.”
On their visit, the two Treasury officials heard from Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council representatives about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ways in which the Tribe has put relief aid from the American Rescue Plan to work. Among the projects highlighted on the trip were housing, broadband, and workforce development efforts.
“As someone who uses micro and macroeconomics every day, I have followed the career of Secretary Yellen for many years and have great respect for her,” said Michael LaPointe, an Economic Development Specialist and citizen of the Sicangu Oyate. “For her to come here to learn about our work and talk about our challenges and progress is a big deal!”
Key among the challenges highlighted by Tribal officials was the lack of access to non-extractive capital when implementing large-scale development projects. “In my work with REDCO and the Tribe, we have crunched the numbers. We know we can create 677 jobs and generate over $108 million in revenue annually if we are able to fully-implement the plan for Keya Wakpala,” said LaPointe. “But in order to do that we need access to innovative capital instruments, and the Treasury is in a unique position to be able to provide that.”
The “Keya Wakpala” referenced by LaPointe is the Keya Wakpala Woicageyapi – or Turtle Creek Regenerative Development – which is a community-scale development that promotes housing, recreation, and commerce. “The Secretary’s team could see how much work we have put in to the plan and they were very impressed and excited with where Rosebud is headed,” said LaPointe. After years of community surveys, economic analysis, engineering, and design the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation (REDCO) – who developed and manages the project – is preparing to break ground on the first access road next month, with the first model home to follow later this summer. REDCO is seeking additional investment to move forward with additional phases.
In addition to Keya Wakpala, Treasury officials also learned about a housing initiative being led by Ojinjinkta Housing Development Corporation. Affordable housing in Indian Country has been an important issue to Secretary Yellen and is one of the areas that will be a focus of Malerba as she oversees the creation of the new Office of Tribal and Native Affairs.
“I’m feeling optimistic,” said LaPointe, reflecting on his conversations with Yellen and Malerba and the announcement of the new office. “Most importantly, they listened. They understood the challenges we are up against, but also the opportunity that exists here on Rosebud and across Indian Country.”
Contact: Jillian Waln
Phone: (480) 938-4554