REDCO’s Jillian Waln and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen
Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, became the first sitting national treasury secretary to visit a reservation, fulfilling a promise made last year to begin visiting tribal nations to expand her department’s engagement with tribes. Along with Tellen, was Marilyn Malerba, a lifetime chief of the Mohegan Tribe, who was just named by President Joe Biden to be the next Treasurer of the United States. With the visit, Yellen would have a hands on meeting, with the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation (REDCO), where she met with Jillian Waln. Waln, who is the community engagement coordinator for REDCO, has talked to various other parties in the past, from stockholders, tribal leaders, and potential investors.
But Tuesday, her audience, would be a single person…the Secretary.
Waln would highlight how every decision REDCO makes, is always looking to the seventh generation, and how the work they are doing is going to impact the future.
Along with several firsts, it’s noted by Yellen, that a Native’s signature will appear on our currency, a deeper commitment to Indian Country. Yellen would also announce the establishment of a new office of Tribal and Native Affairs within the Treasury Department. She said that Malerba will help oversee this office, which will coordinate tribal relations throughout the department and handle the department’s American Rescue Plan programs affecting tribes.
Yellen would mention the Treasury Department’s Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program has provided $20 Billion to tribal governments to fight the pandemic, and help tribal businesses recover, Yellen would also highlight other projects that are benefiting the tribe, from affordable housing projects to increasing internet access. How the funds from the federal government are being used, shows how the tribe is helping deliver relief, including how the RST spent $6.3 million of those funds to help 700 low-income families in need of emergency rental assistance.
Yellen would also get a chance to meet with Tribal leaders from Rosebud and 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 Woicageypi.
This KWW project, is a housing, retail and recreational project planned for a 600-acre site near Mission. The tribe has started work on the first phase, 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 decide for themselves what their priorities are, how they manage their programs and how they create their programs.” She would mention. “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. RST 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.” Herman said. “But today, today it was a really good session. Our secretary was attentive, she listened to our problems. I thank her for that. As long (as) we have her help, we can move forward as a tribe.”
(Contact Joe Budd at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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