'I think cryptocurrencies could be the new buffalo,' activist says.
The Lakota nation has taken MazaCoin, a bitcoin copycat, as its official currency. Native American activist Payu Harris is leading the charge to implement MazaCoin — he believes that the newly-developed cryptocurrency will give the Lakota a sense of "national identity." Despite the massive instability of bitcoin and other digital currencies, Harris and the Lakota believe that MazaCoin is necessary to stop tribe dependence on the federal government.
"We’ve gone through 100 years of imposed poverty," Harris tells The Verge. "That’s the fight we’re having. What we’re trying to do with MazaCoin is just spark something to get us out of this cycle of victimhood." The Lakota populate the Ogala Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, which is one of the most impoverished areas in the country. While $220 million comes through the reservation every year (mostly through casinos), Harris "estimates less than $45 million of that stays in the local economy." Harris told Forbes last week,
I think cryptocurrencies 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.
It's unclear whether the U.S. government will allow the Lakota to develop a completely independent economy, or whether the Lakota could even be successful in doing so. Chase Iron Eyes, the South Dakota legal counsel for the Lakota, tells The Verge that he thinks the government will push back on MazaCoin. "There hasn’t been a tribal nation that has declared its own currency and has mandated that that currency is used within its borders," he says. "But it’s because of this pervasive, ever-present asserted dominion of the United States. They’ll try to shut us down, try to cite us with law violations." Still, Harris thinks that the Lakota's sovereignty gives them "the right to have bitcoin, Litecoin, MazaCoin."