BTC Oyate Initiative Project Lead, Payu Harris (left), shares his thoughts on the Project, Bitcoin and how Native communities could benefit through the Bitcoin community.

Can Bitcoin Alleviate Poverty on the Pine Ridge Reservation? Tribe Pursues its Own 'CryptoCurrency'


Will Bitcoin become the new virtual gold for the Oglala Lakota Nation? The impoverished tribe's reservation is based in rural Rapid City, South Dakota. Payu Harris, the tribal council representative, thinks the Bitcoin (BTC) can empower his people.

Harris is spearheading the BTC Oyate Initiative Project, an "exciting chance for Bitcoin to prove its market viability as a means of trade, identify potential pitfalls and security challenges, and showcase its availability as a merchant-payment solution for small business and entrepreneurs," states the website.

The tribe's currency, the MazaCoin "will be as simple & easy to use as BitCoin of which it is a fork custom designed for the socio-economic needs of the Oglala Lakota," states MazaCoin on Twiiter.

"We're estimating the initial price on the going market of $1.25, which gives us a $2 billion market capitalization," Harris told

"…I would like to extend a hand to the city to see if we can work in conjunction with each other to establish a proper tax regulation," Harris added. "Some of the people using this currency will be in Rapid [City]. I think this is an excellent opportunity for additional revenue for the city."

Bitcon is a digital currency or cryptocurrency, "so-called because it uses cryptography to control the creation and transfer of money," explains Wikipedia.

Transactions are recorded by specialized computers and stored in a shared public database. The operators of these computers are called "miners," who are rewarded with transaction fees and newly minted bitcoins. “Mining can actually be quite profitable when miners are able to get their equipment in a timely manner, which is what keeps many of us looking for better, faster and cheaper hardware all the time,” Andrew Korb, who set up a fund that buys systems to mint Bitcoins and shares the proceeds with investors, told Bloomberg News.

The Oyate Project will assemble a small-scale "mining cluster" to generate bitcoins while providing the public a hands-on chance to learn about mining and how bitcoins are generated, explains the project's website. "The btc generated will be forwarded to the second aspect of the project which is Crypto Currency Exchanges and trading and will be used to help train beginning Native American traders on the basics of cryptocurrency trading, futures contracts, market strategy, CC pairs, and more," states the Oyate Project description. "Also lastly the project aims to produce a massive promotional campaign aimed at small business owners to help facilitate their acceptance of bitcoin as a viable means of payment for goods and services."

Harris believes the Bitcoin can become the Nation's primary means of trade and exchange, and alleviate poverty in a community insulated from big bank-controlled federal regulators.

Visionman-BTC is co-developing with Harris, who is regarded by many as a "technological whiz" at Pine Ridge. Harris got his entrepreneurial start at age 9 with his brother renting video tapes on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where there were no Blockbusters and the commute to town was very far. The successful enterprise funded the brothers' education at a local university, where Payu studied computer science.

Harris is also working with Kimitsu Asset Management (, an international provider of digital currency exchange trading (know as cryptocurrency trading).

"Kimitsu Asset Management, founded in 2013, was the first Native American tribal cryptocurrency broker, making us a market leader in and financial innovation," states the company's website.

While Harris and many financial analysts boast Bitcoin is "the future," the debate still surges about whether or not the cryptocurrency is here to stay.

"We will now see payments and money flow on the Internet in the same way that content flows on the Internet and in the same way that images flow on the Internet," said Fred Wilson, a tech investor known for his early bets on Twitter (TWTR) and Kickstarter, at a 'Le Web' conference in Paris in December, adding that this was one of the most "investable" trends he could see.

While PayPal would not control the flow of this digital money, even PayPal President David Marcus owns bitcoins and said he foresees people using them via eBay in the future, reported CNN.

The Economic Times, however, casts the bitcoin in a significantly more negative light:

"For all the regulatory crackdowns on Bitcoin in recent weeks, the cryptocurrency's advocates remain unfailingly optimistic. Bitcoin is the future, they tell us; it heralds a future where private, stateless currencies will dethrone the dollar and other monetary dinosaurs.

"Sorry, but Bitcoin isn't the future. If anything, it's a throwback to an earlier era, when private currencies circulated alongside government-sponsored money. In fact, if you strip away its technological trappings -- the encryption, the peer-to-peer networks -- and Bitcoin closely resembles these earlier private efforts. This isn't a comforting historical parallel."

Throughout history, rulers created and debased the value, as needed, of their own currency. "But such claims of monetary sovereignty collided with the realities of monetary exchange," The Economic Times states.

Watch a video of Harris discussing Bitcoin's promising future on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation: