Business | Law | National

Mashable: Oglala Sioux man still pushing MazaCoin currency

A sign for MazaCoin, a proposed digital currency that the Oglala Sioux Tribe has not officially endorsed.

Mashable runs a lengthy feature on Payu Harris, who developed the MazaCoin as a form of digital currency that he wanted the Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota to adopt:
The short history of altcoins is already littered with corpses of currencies that once were. Of the 400 currencies tracked by, more than half do less than $100 worth of trading every day. More than 80 have no trading volume at all.

This isn’t to say cryptocurrencies are dead on arrival. On the contrary, a few large companies like Orbitz and Overstock accept payment in Bitcoin, and it’s likely more merchants will follow. As of Sept. 10, all but two of the top 10 altcoins (ranked by market capitalization) offered significant innovation on the Bitcoin protocol. The other two -- Dogecoin and Monacoin -- succeed mostly on the strength of their engaged, meme-loving communities.

But even more so than apps or phones, a successful currency is predicated on widespread adoption, and coming late to the party with nothing new to offer may be the equivalent of not showing up at all.

MazaCoin, offering no obvious technological improvement over Bitcoin, hopes to capitalize on the unity and sovereignty of the Pine Ridge community. But the Oglala Lakota, already mistrustful of powerful institutions, are wary of any new business proposal, not to mention its messenger.

On March 7, the Native Sun, a South Dakota weekly paper, broke the news that the Lakotas had not, in fact, officially endorsed MazaCoin. The tribal president called Harris’ claims “not true at all,” and spooked investors turned on the coin. Harris backpedaled; the coin wasn’t backed by the formal leadership, he explained, but rather by the tribe’s “treaty council.”

“Everyone suddenly tried to jump off a cliff,” he says. “‘Oh, the tribe doesn’t know anything about it, it’s a scam!'” he mocks in a high-pitched tone.

He has since called the article his biggest setback. Just 10 days after it peaked, MazaCoin plummeted to its pre-New York levels of about $0.0035 per coin, leaving Harris at square one – or perhaps even worse off – in South Dakota.

“The first month from its inception was just a whole whirlwind,” Harris says, “Everyone lifted MazaCoin onto this pedestal where it really didn’t need to be at the time.”

But six months later, unswayed by dismal returns, Harris sounds ready to mount the pedestal once more. As MazaCoin develops, he wants people to come in and see it at work. “They can get a cream puff at the bakery. They can go shopping at the store. If they want to attend college, they can pay for their tuition in MazaCoin.”

Get the Story:
One Man's Lonely Quest to Build 'Bitcoin for Native Americans' (Mashable 9/18)

Related Stories:
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux Tribe surprised by MazaCoin plan (3/7)

Join the Conversation