By Maike Eikelmann
APTN National News
A new form of virtual currency that a Native American tribe is reportedly going to use instead of the Greenback could also provide a form of sovereignty to First Nations in Canada if they decided to go the same route according to a university professor.
The money is called MazaCoin, a variation of a bitcoin, and the Oglala Lakota Nation in the United States is reportedly considering adopting it as its official currency.
The same could be done in Canada according to a Wilfrid Laurier University professor in Waterloo, Ont.
“From an Indigenous perspective, it could be a powerful tool for exercising Indigenous sovereignty while generating a new type of economic development,” said Dr. Christopher Alcantara, an associate professor and expert in the field of Indigenous-settler relations and politics. “Any time you can free yourself from the oversight of the Canadian or the American state will usually lead to more liberty on the reserve.”
MazaCoin is not managed by any government or bank, instead it is controlled by its users in the marketplace. This is one reason supporters say, it has the potential to bring more sovereignty to First Nations communities. Moreover, much like regular money, the value of MazaCoin depends on a number of factors, including the security of the currency and the market itself as well as supply and demand.
The online currency was created by Lakota Nation member Payu Harris and came on the market last month. Harris is web developer and a digital currency trader whose ancestry goes back to the Northern Cheyenne.
The Oglala Nation in South Dakota did not return calls or emails from APTN National News.
APTN contacted the MazaCoin developers themselves by writing an email provided on its website.
A person who would only identify themselves as “AnonymousPirate” responded.
“Would love to see a First Nations coin,” the person said, adding that it would have a number of advantages for First Nation economies.
“Most tribal societies have an adversarial relationship with the surrounding dominant western society […] The coin can act as a unifying force within the tribe to bring unity and build identity.”
Chuck Grimmett has studied mathematics, economics and now works for the non-profit organization Foundation of Economic Education in New York.
Grimmett explained bitcoins, or in this case MazaCoins, are created by computers solving difficult math problems, for which they are rewarded with coins and this is called “mining.”
Those who “mine” the coins can then sell them.
Once purchased someone can buy something by using their digital wallet, which is on a phone or a computer, using a code.
“MazaCoin’s mining is based on a proof of work algorithm that is specifically designed to mimic the value curve and rarity of precious metal commodities,” said Grimmett.
He sees the biggest barrier in getting the infrastructure in place to distribute the coins, like an ATM machine.
“Reliable cell phones or Wi-Fi networks and mining computers accessible at all times are a must to process the transactions” he said.
Once those things are available for everyone, he thinks, the transition from regular cash to Internet money could be smooth.
“Distributing digital wallets to every man, and child and teaching them how to use it” would be the goal said Grimmett.
Alcantara says, while he supports the idea of a sovereign bitcoin, does see some problems.
He wonders if enough people would invest in it and how secure it is, but these risks, he says, exist with any currency.
“These issues can be managed. The Lakota Nation has already taken steps to address some of these issues,” he said.