A confederation of seven Sioux tribes in the US have created a digital currency similar to bitcoin and adopted it as their official national tender.
The Oglala Lakota Nation (notable members of which include Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse; the chieftain who secured a victory over General George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn) has launched MazaCoin in the hopes that it will help to lift the tribe out of poverty.
Bitcoin developer Payu Harris says that he wants to take advantage of the semi-autonomous nature of certain Native American tribes within the US to oust the dollar in favour of more “forward thinking” alternatives.
“I think crypto-currencies could be the new buffalo,” Harris told Forbes. “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.”
MazaCoin is what is known as a "fork" of bitcoin derivative ZetaCoin, although unlike bitcoin it is inflationary, meaning that new coins can be mined over time. The Oglala Lakota Nation has pre-mined 25 million MazaCoins to serve as a national reserve with another 25 million coins set aside for a Tribal Trust, an organization that will issue grants to local businesses and tribe members.
The bitcoin protocol only allows for a total of 21 million coins to be mined (there are currently around 12 million out there) but the Oglala Lakota Nation predict that around 2.4 billion MazaCoins will be mined in the first five years, with one million coins mined each year after that. MazaCoin is much easier to mine than bitcoin, meaning that it takes less computing power and is thus more environmentally friendly.
The very first 500 coins mined last week were dedicated to the “Great Spirit and the prosperity and wealth of the Oglala Lakota Nation” and an official website for the currency states that the ambition is for MazaCoin to have “a minimum useful lifespan of at least a century”.
“I want to get my people educated and show them this is the next level of finance,” said Harris. “Let’s make the rest of the world play catch up. Let’s be leaders and rebuild the economy on our terms.”
Reports suggest that the FBI have already contacted Harris and the tribe to remind him that crypto-currencies are not yet legal tender in the US. Harris told Forbes that he would not be asking permission, saying that he refuses to ask “to do anything within my own borders”.