MazaCoin: Can a New Currency Save This Native American Tribe?
One man is on a quest to save his tribe. He believes that the answer to their survival lies in bitcoins. But now, no one — not even what he considers his tribe — wants anything to do with his solution.
What‘s a Bitcoin?
If you’re like me, then the concept of bitcoins seems foreign. Luckily, CNN Money‘s got us covered. A bitcoin is a form of digital, peer-to-peer currency that started back in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto (alias).
Bitcoin transactions work like an average bank transaction with a twist. Bitcoins eliminate the middlemen, also known as banks. Bitcoins are free of bank transaction fees, many users like the anonymity of the currency and international transactions are a breeze (no annoying country-specific regulations). Bitcoins can be practical, too. Small business owners are attracted to zero credit card fees. The novelty of the currency could become a profitable investment. In late 2013, CNN Money reported how bitcoins were worth nearly as much as an ounce of gold.
Bitcoins are quickly catching on with online and offline merchants. Users have purchased pizza and manicures with bitcoins. Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported how PayPal’s jumping on the bitcoin train by allowing more merchants to accept the digital currency to purchase digital goods. According to WSJ, brands like Overstock.com Inc., Dell Inc., Virgin Galactic, Dish Network Corp and Expedia already accept bitcoin payments.
According to CNN Money, bitcoins are created through a process called “mining.” Users compete to solve math puzzles. The one who solves the puzzle is awarded 25 bitcoins, and prizes are awarded around every ten minutes. Bitcoin exchanges occur over mobile devices or computers. Bitcoins are stored in digital wallets on clouds and on computers. Both clouds and computers aren’t the most secure locations, so bitcoins are vulnerable. This security vulnerability is a major flaw of the digital currency. Unlike money in banks, bitcoins aren’t backed and secured by the FDIC. Tell James Howell about that. He threw away 7,500 bitcoins, or $7.5 million, stored on his hard drive in a landfill — that’s got to hurt.
Yet, apart from the FDIC backing, many users don’t see a difference between bitcoins and the money we use today. The dollar stopped being backed by gold (for good) with Nixon. In its place is the “full faith and credit” of the U.S. government. So our money — and our debt — aren’t as real as we’re led to believe, anyway.
The future of bitcoins is still unknown. Let’s just say that the U.S. government isn’t too keen on taxation and how they can’t control the currency.
Can MazaCoin Save One Tribe‘s Future?
As Mashable reports, Payu Harris of South Dakota thinks that the bitcoin that he co-created, MazaCoin, can save the Lakota’s future on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The problem is: no one wants to give him a chance. Dubbed the “first Native American cryptocurrency,” MazaCoin showed early promise. But the reservation’s history of abuse, corruption, distrust and exploitation internally and externally has halted MazaCoin’s progress.
MazaCoin could really help the tribe. The federal government plans on making million-dollar budget cuts that will affect the tribe’s housing, heath and education sectors. Harris believes that as the value of the MazaCoins increase, the tribe won’t need to depend on federal assistance. As Harris said, “I think cryptocurrencies could be the new buffalo. Once, it was everything for our survival.”
The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation really can’t afford those budget cuts. According to Red Cloud School, here’s what we know about life on the reservation:
– 80 percent of all residents are unemployed and almost half of all residents live under the federal poverty lines.
– When alcohol wasn’t legal on the reservation because of the extreme alcoholism, 12,500 cans of beer were sold every day in the neighboring town of White Clay, Neb., where alcohol sales were legal.
– Obesity, heart disease and diabetes are epidemics on the 2.8 million acre reservation. The rate of diabetes related amputations is three-four times higher on the reservation.
– The life expectancy of the reservation is the lowest in the United States, and the second lowest in the western hemisphere. Men can expect to live up to 48 years, while women can live up to 52 years.
– Only 12.1 percent of residents have furthered their education by earning a bachelor’s degree.
– Everyday luxuries that we take for granted aren’t always available on the reservation. Thirteen percent of residents don’t have access to full plumbing, 9.2 don’t have a complete kitchen and 22.8 don’t have phone service.
The media ate it up when Harris brought up the iconic buffalo. Reports started circulating that the tribe had officially embraced MazaCoin as its new currency. That wasn’t true, but it was the beginning of MazaCoin’s downfall. The tribal president called Harris out, and early investors were “spooked.” While formal tribal leadership didn’t support MazaCoin, Harris insists that the treaty council did support it. Borderline hysteria ensued; some went as far to say that MazaCoin was a “scam.”
Harris isn’t letting this setback stop him. For Harris, MazaCoin is more than currency; it’s a solution. Harris envisions MazaCoin fighting tribal corruption, creating a more streamlined tribal identification system and a way to fight for LGBTQ rights on the reservation. But MazaCoin hasn’t been adopted by the tribe the way that Harris hoped. For many in the tribe, Harris is the equivalent of a “snake oil salesman.” Harris also lost support from the bitcoin community when MazaCoin flopped. Meanwhile, retailers take the “We’ll use it once people have it to spend” approach, leaving Harris and MazaCoin in a real catch-22.
Harris isn’t fazed if MazaCoin never strikes gold on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Harris refuses to be limited by his tribe, and he’s willing to take MazaCoin to “another tribe, country or continent.”
As reported in Mashable, as of September 10, 2014, MazaCoin was pretty much worthless; it was trading at $0.000078.
Have you used bitcoins before? Do you think that they could help this tribe? Let us know in the comments below.
Photo Credit: Zach Copley