Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Terramagne-Rocky Boy's Alternative Currency

This is actually part of the footnote section for "Sheltered and True," but it's long enough to need its own post.

In T-America, Rocky Boy's Reservation has a tribal currency which is accessible to everyone, although used primarily by residents. You buy into it by doing work on behalf of the tribe. Every town on the reservation has either an office or an elder who maintains a list of work that needs to be done; you ask for an assignment, do the work, and they give you some money. So there is no need to be unemployed. This is a time-based form of alternative currency. It is printed on a special press owned by the tribe, and difficult to counterfeit because of how much work it would take for a relatively small gain. The currency isn't worth much off the reservation except for collector interest, unless if you will be visiting Rocky Boy's soon or know someone who lives there.

The minor unit is the diba'igan (hour). These represent actual hours of work. Thus it is similar to hourly wages. The equivalent is $15/hour at minimum wage. They are available in generic paper bills with denominations of ingo-diba'igan (one hour), niizho-diba'igan (two hours), niso-diba'igan (three hours), niiwo-diba'igan (four hours), ingodwaaso-diba'igan (six hours), nishwaaso-diba'igan (eight hours), and ashi-niizho-diba'igan (twelve hours). A majority of the currency exists in the form of ingo-diba'igan (one hour) bills. The bills show people erecting a tipi with one, two, three, four, six, or eight poles in use; and the ashi-niizho-diba'igan (twelve hours) bill has a tipi with twelve poles and its hide covering in place while the people have sat down to rest.

The major units represent time in service, customarily with the assumption of 8 hours work per weekday, but the employer can call upon the employee at any time. Thus it is similar to working on salary. The smallest major unit is the dibikad (night) worth 24 hours. The Ojibwe language counts "nights" the way English counts "days." A typical workday is 8 hours; at $15/hour minimum wage, it equates to approximately U.S. $120. In practice, this unit is often used for jobs that will take about a day to do, which can mean anything from 6-12 hours; 8 is just an estimate. These are available in generic silver coins which feature a crescent moon and stars.

The medium-size major unit is the giizis (moon). It measures four weeks, each containing 5 workdays of 8 hours, thus a total of 160 hours. At $15/hour minimum wage, it equates to approximately U.S. $2,400. The giizis has two denominations, which are actually nothing alike except that the time commitment is measured the same way. One is the aabitawaabikizi (half-moon), a generic gold coin with a half moon on it, which represents two weeks of service, or about $1,200. For the other, the term giizis is only used as a general word for naming this unit of currency which represents one moon-cycle of service. It takes the form of a wooden rod, about an inch thick and as long as a person's forearm, which is carved with images indicating the time of year, the type of work done, who did it, and who it was done for. If the employer is not a good carver, then an expert may be hired to make the giizis. It is then named according to the month in which the work occurred, so for example, Manoominike-giizis (Ricing Moon, mid-August-mid-September). Rocky Boy's Reservation uses the Western Dialect list of moons for this purpose. Often these units are kept instead of spent, as they become status symbols in a society that values humility, generosity, and service. However, they can be traded for large benefits such as claiming a section of tribal land for personal use (hunting, gathering, etc.) for that amount of time, or traded to another person who wants to work for a month. If a giizis is spent, then the story of the original work travels with it, and it accrues more over time. Thus they cannot be counterfeited.

The largest unit of major currency is the biboon (winter). The Ojibwe language counts "winters" the way English counts "years." It measures 12 months, each with 160 workhours, thus a total of 1920 hours. At $15/hour minimum wage, it equates to approximately U.S. $28,800. These are represented by large poles, such as a walking stick or spear shaft, which is carved with images indicating the time of year, the type of work done, who did it, and who it was done for. Typically the twelve moons are shown on an ingo-biboon (one winter), but those for longer timeframes usually just illustrate the highlights. If the employer is not a good carver, then an expert may be hired to make the biboon. The denominations are ingo-biboon (one winter), niizho-biboon (two winters), naano-biboon (five winters), and midaaso-biboon (ten winters). One way for young people to attend Stone Child College, if they cannot pay in cash, is for them to spend two years in service to the tribe. They give the niizho-biboon to the college, and get an education. If the college wants to hire someone for a two-year period, they can offer a niizho-biboon, which the recipient can then use for their own or a relative's education. Consequently this is the most-circulated denomination of major currency, because people do spend these eagerly due to having a high-value resource to buy with them. The maximum cost per semester is $1617.50 for a nontribal student taking 21 credits, so about $2000/semester accounting for miscellaneous fees. That doesn't count lodging, food, clothes, or other expenses though. The niizho-biboon includes total support for two years. It looks more expensive, but you get a lot more for it. Another very popular use involves saving daso-biboon (a certain number of winters) to hire assistance in retirement. This lets people without close family ties create a similar support network with a concrete unit of exchange.

Crafts are often priced in time plus materials plus overhead. Count the length of time required to make it. Figure the cost of materials and overhead, then translate that into time based on $15/hour. Add the two together. A quilt is commonly priced at one giizis (one moon) because it takes about a month to make a quilt and the skill is considerable. Fancier quilts by master artists may go for more.

one hour
ingo-diba'igan adv num one hour; one mile; one yard

two hours
niizho-diba'igan adv num

three hours
niso-diba'igan adv num

four hours
niiwo-diba'igan adv num

six hours
ingodwaaso-diba'igan adv num

eight hours
nishwaaso-diba'igan adv num

twelve hours
ashi-niizho-diba'igan adv num twelve hours; twelve mile

certain number of hours
adv num
1. a certain number of hours, so many hours
-- The Ojibwe People's Dictionary

certain number of nights
daso-dibik adv num a certain number of nights; so many nights
-- The Ojibwe People's Dictionary

dibiki-giizis na moon
giizis na sun, moon, a month
-- The Ojibwe People's Dictionary

half moon
aabitawaabikizi vai
1. s/he is half (as something mineral)
2. it (the moon) is a half-moon
ricing moon
manoominike-giizis na the moon of ricing occuring in August or September
-- The Ojibwe People's Dictionary

Ojibwe Moons (T-Rocky Boy's Reservation uses the Western Dialect.)
Full Moon Dates for 2016 and Month Names
1. January 23rd Gichimanidoo-giizis (Great Spirit Moon)
2. February 22nd Namebini-giizis (Suckerfish Moon)
3. March 23rd Onaabani-giizis (Snowcrust Moon)
4. April 22nd Iskigamizige-giizis (Sugarbushing Moon)
5. May 21st Zaagibagaa-giizis (Budding Moon)
6. June 20th Odemiini-giizis (Strawberry Moon)
7. July 19th Abitaa-niibini-giizis (Halfway Summer Moon)
8. August 18th Manoominike-giizis (Ricing Moon)
9. September 16th Waatebagaa-giizis (Leaves Turning Moon)
10. October 16th Binaakwe-giizis (Falling Leaves Moon)
11. November 14th Gashkadino-Giizis (Freezing Over Moon)
12. December 13th Manidoo-Giizisoons (Little Spirit Moon)
-- Months / Moons

biboon vii it is winter
biboonagad vii it is a winter, it (a year) passes
-- The Ojibwe People's Dictionary

biboon adv num a year; a winter
ingo-biboon adv num one year; one winter

two years
niizho-biboon adv num two years; two winters

five years
naano-biboon adv num five years; five winters

ten years
midaaso-biboon adv num ten years; ten winters

so many years
daso-biboon adv num a certain number of years; so many years; a certain number of winters; so many winters
-- The Ojibwe People's Dictionary

Bedabun -- False dawn
In T-Rocky Boy's usage, this is the term for an unpaid debt or someone welching on a bet. It can also refer to counterfeit currency -- usually U.S. dollars, because tribal currency is resistant to counterfeiting.
-- An Ojibwe Language Word List

All of the businesses operated, financed, and/or subsidized by the tribe have to accept tribal currency. Private businesses may or may not, as they choose, but those who accept it get a lot more customers, because few people have much cash. Tribal businesses include the Bear Paw Cafe, Bear Paw Casino, Bear Paw Energy, Bear Paw Past Time Gas Station/Convenience Store, Chippewa Cree Construction Company, Fish & Game Programs, Gramma's Market, and Native American Bank.  Unique to T-Rocky Boy's is the restaurant Wiikwandiwin ("Feast Food"), another tribal business.

L-Rocky Boy's has minimal utilities. This is typical of reservations. T-Rocky Boy's has more. Bear Paw Energy is a propane company, tribally owned so in T-Rocky Boy's it accepts tribal currency. Hill County Electric Cooperative requires cash, as it does not accept tribal currency. However, it does have programs to assist poor residents in paying their bills.

Water service is divided. The Core System run by the Chippewa Cree Construction Corporation serves the reservation, and in T-Rocky Boy's it accepts tribal currency to pay water bills. The Non-Core System run by the North Central Montana Regional Water Authority deals with pipelines and off-reservation services, so it requires cash.

Tribal land held in common provides a "natural opportunity for labor." That is, any member can go out hunting and gathering for food, craft supplies, and so forth. They avoid the tragedy of the commons through beliefs and traditions about treating the land with respect. Diligence and generosity are highly valued as virtues across most tribes. That means a hard worker will be showered with praise and approval. The tribal council and the elders observe nature and then give timely guidance about which resources may be used and which need to be conserved. Similarly, the tribe always has work that needs to be done, such as maintaining infrastructure, gathering firewood for public events, or caring for people in need. Rocky Boy's tribal currency makes it easier to manage the flow of goods and services, without requiring U.S. dollars which are difficult to obtain on the reservation.
Tags: community, cyberfunded creativity, economics, ethnic studies, fantasy, fishbowl, poetry, reading, weblit, writing

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