Mohegans name first female chief in 300-plus years

By Stephanie Reitz
Harford, Connecticut  (AP) March 2010

One of the nation’s best-known and most prosperous American Indian tribes will soon have its first female tribal chief in almost 300 years.

Lynn Malerba was introduced Thursday as incoming chief of the Mohegan Tribe, whose Mohegan Sun casino complex in southeastern Connecticut is one of the world’s largest gaming and hotel facilities, employing nearly 10,000 people.

Malerba, who will be inducted in August, becomes the Mohegans’ first female chief since 1723.

The lifetime appointment holds unmatched prestige and a chance to be a voice in influencing Indian policy nationwide.

It’s unclear exactly how many tribal leaders among the 564 federally recognized tribes in the U.S. are women.

The Mohegan tribe, which has about 1,700 members, has been without a chief since Ralph Sturges’ death in October 2007. He shepherded the tribe through federal recognition in 1994 and the opening of its casino two years later.

The tribe’s Council of Elders bestowed a new Mohegan name on Malerba when it selected her as chief: “Mutawi Mutahash,” or “Many Hearts.”

Malerba, 56, is the great-granddaughter of a chief who died one year before she was born.