The Lakota Nation, a group of seven Native American bands in North and South Dakota, voted to make a Bitcoin-like crypto-currency called MazaCoin their official currency, according to Forbes. Programmer and Lakota activist Payu Harris believes that the coin will help the Lakota people gain sovereignty over their land. “To be a truly independent state you have to have your own issued currency,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
The Oglala Lakota Nation’s reservation in South Dakota is poverty-stricken; residents earn an average salary of less than $8,000 a year, and unemployment is at 80 percent. Harris believes that creating a crypto-currency can bring his people out of their financial situation. “I think crypto-currencies could be the new buffalo. Once, it was everything for our survival. We used it for food, for clothes, for everything. It was our economy. I think MazaCoin could serve the same purpose,” he told Forbes.
Harris believes that crypto-currencies could be the new standard for Native American reservations, in order to prove their legitimacy and sovereignty internationally. And already, at least the crypto-currency community is welcoming MazaCoin; Harris was present to bang the bell at the Bitcoin exchange in Midtown Manhattan earlier this month, to introduce MazaCoin to the world.
MazaCoin’s genesis comes in a tumultuous time for crypto-currencies. In just the past few months, major Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox was robbed and then swiftly shut down, Newsweek (maybe) doxed a man who could be Bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto (and ruined this poor man’s life if he isn’t), Founder of Singapore-based Bitcoin startup First Meta Autumn Radtke died in a possible suicide, and publications like MarketWatch have been declaring crypto-currencies dead (“Bitcoin’s body count is rising”)—it’s a mess.
Despite all this, MazaCoin’s founder, a hacker known as AnonymousPirate, didn’t even address security concerns in relation to recent events in the official MazaCoin white paper.
It’s unclear how the MazaCoin experiment will work out for the Lakota people. It’s an optimistic project that Harris says will spark some kind of national spirit in the impoverished community, but it also might be too late for a new crypto-currency when the existing ones are crashing down around us. Still, there’s hope: it’s trading well on the crypto-currency markets so far.