Cryptocurrency company NativeCoin hopes to use blockchain technology to build an economy for Native Americans, by Native Americans.
The cryptocurrency enables tribes to easily transact with one another, as well as keep track of where community funding ends up, said NativeCoin President Randy Williams. It would also insulate Native American markets from outside fluctuations and exemplify the sovereignty inherent to tribal organizations and enterprises, he added.
“Tribes always have their sovereignty, so NativeCoin will just be part of that sovereignty — independence of currency,” Williams (Tlingit, Otoe-Missouria Tribe) told Tribal Business News. “NativeCoin isn’t going to create sovereignty because we’ve always had it. It’s just support for the effort of sovereignty, which is the use of Native currency to promote what we do and what we purchase.”
A new, Native-centric currency could also prove helpful in modernizing one of Indian Country’s biggest economic drivers: tribal casinos.
As COVID-19 and new laws have prompted the rise in internet gaming, NativeCoin is positioned to become a tool in tracking and maintaining casino transactions in the same way chips serve as a pseudo-currency in many establishments, according to Williams.
“Internet gaming just creates another opportunity to promote. That’s certainly something that fits right in with the Native currency,” Williams said. “We hope to be able to have the NativeCoin as the primary coin used for internet gaming, and that creates an opportunity for that currency to expand into local and international markets.”
Building off new technology
Blockchain technology provides a way to link blocks of data together via shared encryption, ensuring that changes to each block are easily identified. Cryptocurrency utilizes that technology to generate unique “coins,” or balances in public ledgers stored in the blockchain.
Blockchains generate new “coins,” expanding the market for each, by creating new blocks with the same identifying information as prior blocks in the chain.
The market decides the value of each coin much in the same way the stock market settles on the value of individual stocks. Along those lines, real-time price tracking has proven to be a benefit of cryptocurrency compared to the traditional stock market, Williams added.
“You buy and you sell and you can buy low and sell high if you’re fortunate enough. The difference is that it’s not manipulated by the big brokerage firms,” he said. “We don’t get the news two days after the fact; we see the difference in real time.”
Despite wildly fluctuating performance by cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum and Bitcoin, the crypto market has grown steadily since its inception in 2009. A report by marketing research firm Facts and Factors notes the global cryptocurrency market stood at $792 million in 2019, and estimates it will grow to more than $5 billion by 2026.
NativeCoin, which is listed as N8V in market listings, has seen its own share of fluctuations since its introduction to cryptocurrency exchanges like CoinTiger and ExMarkets. According to cryptocurrency information aggregator CoinRanking.com, the coin stands at roughly 30 cents on the dollar in CoinTiger, the most used market in the exchange listings.
More than $267,000 in NativeCoin has been traded in the last 24 hours. The currency has peaked at $1.29 in the last month, according to CoinRanking.
“People have been purchasing daily, hourly, by the minute,” Williams said.
NativeCoin began trading its currency on the exchanges in late January. The company next plans to introduce physical, NativeCoin-enabled, ATM-style kiosks for tribal enterprises and reservations, which should help drive the price higher as more people begin trading the coin.
“It all depends on the news. We’re working on moving our kiosks into casinos. Once we start to develop that arena, then of course we start to create more positive news for people. Then the more you purchase, the price will move forward,” Williams said. “They fluctuate a little bit.”
New methods meet old ways
The ultimate goal for NativeCoin hinges on becoming a stable and open market for Native American goods, services and tribal enterprises, according to Williams.
He acknowledged that introducing cryptocurrency technology to reservations, where computer literacy is traditionally lower than other communities, poses its own set of challenges.
“It’s a difficult process, let’s not kid ourselves about that. Cryptocurrency is not the mainstream yet, so that’s difficult, and exhibiting that to tribal members is equally difficult,” Williams said. “Especially on reservations, the cryptocurrency world is not as prevalent, so it’s an education process. It’ll take time and effort and work, but good hard work will pay off in the end.”
While education plays a part in building out NativeCoin’s use in tribal economies, Williams said advancing technologies also could help simplify the process. He cited as an example the cryptocurrency “wallet,” which essentially functions as a digital folder containing blockchain data and, by extension, cryptocurrency balances.
Current cryptocurrency wallets use QR codes to send and receive data, which could be an issue for populations on tribal reservation, which tend to be older and less likely to use smartphones, a necessary tool for scanning and processing QR data.
“Hopefully they’re going to find a way to streamline that, because it can be complicated for a new person and a lot of elder people don’t have smartphones,” Williams said. “Somebody has to find a way to streamline that process and make it easy to buy cryptocurrency and sell cryptocurrency, just like you would an ATM card.”
Williams believes ATM cards serve as an example of a new technology that took time for people to adopt before becoming commonplace.
“People didn’t want to use ATM cards when they first started coming out. They didn’t trust them,” Williams said. “Now you very seldom see anybody writing a check in line because they all use the card. In the future, it’s more of a crypto world. You’ll be used to using your wallet. That transition will occur just like the ATM card did.”
As cryptocurrency gains ground in both local and international markets, Williams wants to position NativeCoin to help tribes take advantage of the technology.
“It’s a movement,” Williams said. “You get the people who believe in the activity and they buy a large amount of coins, and because they believe what we’re doing is good and right for the tribal communities.”