This August, human rights graduate student Sage Phillips ’22 (CLAS), ’24 MA spoke with Lynn Malerba ’08 MPA. A member of the Penobscot Nation and founder of the Native American and Indigenous Students Association at UConn, Phillips was in Old Town, Maine, on a fellowship with the Wabanaki Alliance. Malerba, chief of the Mohegan Tribe, was in Washington, D.C., 11 months into her appointment as United States Treasurer.
Phillips: It’s an honor to speak with you. You are an inspiration for Indigenous women and girls across the country, so I want to ask — who inspires you?
Malerba: That’s a big question. I would say that all of the generations that came before me inspire me, because they held on no matter what, right? Against all odds, despite very little resources, they were able to pass on our culture, make sure our government stayed intact, and then get us through the federal re-recognition process. My mom was part of those generations. Her grandfather was part of those generations; he was the chief from the 1930s to the 1950s. When I think about my role, I feel I’m keeping faith with them. They inspire me, but my children and my grandchildren inspire me as well, because isn’t that why we do the work that we do? It’s to make sure that our tribal community stays intact and the next generations can live a good life, too, and stay connected to their tribal roots.