The Oglala Sioux Tribe has long struggled on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation with finding economic prosperity and a model for success for its people in the future. Today, most of the native population on the reservation lives in poverty with scarce resources and limited opportunity to lift themselves out of the despair of hopelessness. Mazacoin founder Payu Harris thinks he has found a way to improve the Lakota Nation’s economic prospects as well as return a bit of sovereignty to the Sioux people. A derivative of Bitcoin, Mazacoin is a cryptocurrency developed solely by the tribe and, if left alone by the federal government, could give the Sioux tribe the first sovereign and independent currency in use by a native American nation.
Mazacoin just crossed ten million dollars in market cap and is growing three times as fast as Bitcoin. The cryptocurrency is starting to be accepted at local businesses and is expected to have a lifespan of over a century, therefore making it a legitimate store of value for the Sioux people. But the real question is, how will Mazacoin impact the local economy? And what other unforeseen consequences may emerge?
Up to forty-thousand people live on the Pine Ridge Reservation, and the average per-capita income is less than ten thousand dollars annually. It is 120 miles from the nearest urban area, and there is no public transportation. Many families have no electricity or running water, and most of the jobs that are available are in local community institutions.
The mission of the founders of Mazacoin is to eventually provide business loans, technical assistance, and wealth building education for individuals and businesses on the reservation, with an emphasis on investing in youth. The tribe has also established the Prairie Wind Casino that provides about two-hundred and fifty jobs to the local population.
And here is where some interesting possibilities come into play with Mazacoin. Political operative Gary Johnson states, “Since Mazacoin is not recognized as a legal currency by the state of South Dakota, all of the sudden, the limits that are placed on the number of slot machines that can be at any of the reservation casinos is in question, since they can now, if the tribe accepts the currency, retool slot machines to accept Mazacoin and thereby skirt around the strict limits imposed by the state. This is an interesting angle that may alter how all of the tribes operate in the casino industry and beyond.”
Another possible angle is campaign finance contributions. In May, the tribe contributed fifty-thousand MZC to gubernatorial candidate Lora Hubbel, the first contribution of its kind for a state-wide election. Again, since Mazacoin is not recognized as a currency, are contributions suject to current campaign finance law?
Cryptocurrency adoption is an interesting possibility to help lift native peoples out of poverty by embracing technology and globalization. With a twenty-five million MZC reserve, the tribe will benefit as the value of the altcoin grows. The administrators of the currency have vowed to make decisions that will retain value of MZC and attempt to avoid some of the wild profit/loss swings of its forerunner Bitcoin. This is an enterprise worth watching.
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