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Crypto Diné? Leaders need to learn, Benally says


Blockchain in Diné Bikéyah would make transactions safer and faster, said Dineh Benally.

And Diné leaders need to pay attention to the emerging technology of digital currency.

If digital currency (béeso), or cryptocurrency, replaces traditional forms of currency in the country, it could change nearly every facet of life in Diné Bikéyah, said Benally.

Benally has studied the future of crypto (a Greek word that means “hidden”) and how the digital revolution is changing currencies and finance. Blockchain is the underlying technology on which cryptocurrency is based.

Benally said if Diné don’t get in the know about this technology, it will be a missed opportunity to defend Navajo sovereignty.

“This technology is about protecting the sovereignty of our way of life in Indian Country,” said Benally, who’s Bitáá’chii’nii (Táchii’nii), born for Tó’aheedlíinii.

“With this blockchain and cryptocurrency, you’re looking at money becoming digital,” he explained. “It’s already happening. I’m sure people (are familiar) with bitcoin.”

Blockchain, cryptocurrencies

When one thinks of “currency,” they might think of coins and paper notes, or credit/debit cards.

But cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoins, aren’t like that. They don’t exist as coins or physical bills. They exist as lines of computer code that are digitally signed each time they travel from one owner to the next.

This allows secure, direct payment for online transactions, and offers a straightforward way to transfer funds entirely online without involving banks or credit card companies.

Bitcoins are usually stored in virtual wallets, including online services that resemble bank accounts.

Blockchain is a digital record that tracks cryptocurrency transactions. Transactions typically are completely anonymous, making the currency popular among people who want to conceal their financial activity.

The blockchain ledger (a shared database) is managed by a global network of computers – known as “nodes,” “miners,” or “peers” – that each add new entries visible to everyone.

Any user of the blockchain can be a node, which verify, approve, and store data within the ledger.

A blockchain organizes information added to the ledger into blocks and each block can hold only a certain amount of information. New blocks are continually added to the ledger, forming a chain.

Each block contains a cryptographic of the previous block, a timestamp, and transaction data. The timestamp proves that the transaction data existed when the block was published in order to get into its hash.

And cryptocurrencies use astonishing amounts of electricity.

Blockchain was introduced to the public by Bitcoin, which is a cryptocurrency and the biggest player in the cryptoverse, according to CoinMarketCap.

Bitcoin shouldn’t be confused with other systems, such as Ethereum, which is second place behind Bitcoin, and Binance Coin, the third largest crypto.

Yes, this is gibberish to the average person. All in all, it’s a technology that keeps a master list of everyone who has ever interacted with it.

So why does Benally want the Diné leaders to catch on?

One, Bitcoin believers say the future of crypto is bright and its technology will change how people conduct payments, banking and other financial transactions.

Two, the Navajo Nation continues to risk falling behind on technology and innovation.

“As Native Americans, we need to start understanding this data center (Bitcoin colocation hosting facilities) and this cryptocurrency,” Benally said, “and what we need to do on our part in, on Indian Country, to take advantage and get involved in this technology.”

And how would one explain this in Navajo to Diné elders?
There might be some misconceptions, but it could be explained as a na’ashjé’ii bitł’óól, béésh nitsékeesí, and awók’iz análdiłí.

Benally said it’d best be explained as atsiniltł’ish.

“We have to start educating ourselves,” Benally said. “If we do get involved, it’s going to help improve our economy.

“It’s going to help improve our welfare from an economic standpoint because right now, we are dealing with a lot of social ills and unemployment,” he explained. “Understanding this technology, it’s going to help our Nation move forward for generations to come.”

Building data centers

While cryptocurrencies are soaring in value, they can crash. And they use astonishing amounts of electricity and other inducements.

For instance, mining is creating new blocks for the Bitcoin blockchain. And in return, those transactions will return rewards paid in Bitcoin.

But environmental damage from technology is overstated, according to giant tech companies with colossal-size data centers.

“Data centers, to me, is going to be the information system for certain areas,” Benally said. “We need to look into data centers. We need to look into blockchain because it’s not just only for the individual, but to improve the economy of our Nation, the Navajo people.

“Not just the government but the individual Navajo,” he said. “If we were to have data centers, we would be able to continue to survive so our kids, the next generation can be proud of us supporting our Nation by building data centers so they can have an economy 100 years from now.”

Benally added that while the Nation may be far away from the internet start-up and gadget hub and flaws and risks, it would have to hire the right team to bring this about so the Diné can mine cryptocurrency for a digital fortune.

“It’s going to benefit our Nation economically,” Benally added. “We’re going to generate money for ourselves, for us to survive, for us to begin wealth for ourselves because I’m tired of seeing a lot of our people suffering because they don’t have money. It’s very heartbreaking.”

About The Author

Krista Allen

Krista Allen, based in Kaibeto, is editor of the Navajo Times.


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