Connect with us

Charter Cities Podcast Episode 50: Catawba Digital Economic Zone with Joseph McKinney

Get an inside look at Digital Economic Zones and more as we sit down with Joseph McKinney, CEO of the Catawba Digital Economic Zone (DEZ), a new SEZ established by the Catawba nation based in the Carolinas.


If you’re a regular listener of this podcast you may be familiar with the term Special Economic Zone (SEZ). In short, SEZ refers to an area where business and trade laws are different from the rest of the country. Typically, these zones will have laws or legal codes and regulations that make it attractive for businesses to relocate there. Today on the show you’ll learn all about these zones and more as we sit down with Joseph McKinney, CEO of the Catawba Digital Economic Zone (DEZ), a new SEZ established by the Catawba nation based in the Carolinas. In our conversation, we break down the economic and philosophical objectives of the Catawba DEZ and its unique legal and regulatory frameworks as well as how this zone is integrated into tribal governance. We also discuss the Catawba DEZ’s special focus on FinTech, digital assets, advancing the digital economy, and why this gives them a competitive edge. Learn about the work they’re doing to explore physical infrastructure for data centers, supercomputers, and crypto mining, and why Joseph believes this has the most promising revenue-generating potential. Today’s episode takes a deep dive into SEZs and DEZs and breaks down how they can benefit indigenous people when implemented correctly, as well as what it takes to institute good governance. To learn more, make sure you tune in for key insights on this expansive and important topic!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Get to know today’s guest, Joseph McKinney, his background, and how he became CEO at Catawba Digital Economic Zone (DEZ).
  • An overview of the Startup Societies Network and how it was founded.
  • A breakdown of DEZs and how they work.
  • The regulatory advantages of DEZs.
  • The authority that Native Americans have within their states and how that applies to regulatory governance.
  • How DEZs are creating a middle ground for tribal governance and regulation.
  • How the Catawba tribe benefits from the DEZ in the Carolinas.
  • Some of the physical infrastructure that they’re expecting to create, including data centers and supercomputers.
  • An overview of how the Catawba Digital Economic Zone is creating regulatory certainty for Web3, crypto, blockchain, and fintech companies.
  • How digital economic zones are expected to fit into existing trends within the tech industry.
  • The most important value proposition made by the Catawba DEZ.
  • Why this type of SEZ needs a combination of startup culture mobility, along with a secure foundation of good governance.
  • How special economic zones are helping the United States improve its business environment.
  • How the Catawba DEZ in the Carolinas, hopes to compete with Delaware.



 Kurtis: Welcome to the Charter Cities Podcast. I’m Kurtis Lockhart. On each episode, we invite a leading expert to discuss key trends in global development in the world of cities, including the role of charter cities and innovative governance will play in humanity’s new urban age.

For more information, please follow us on social media, or visit

 Jeffrey: Thank you for listening to the charter cities Podcast. I’m Jeffrey Mason, research manager at the charter cities Institute. Joining me on the podcast today is Joseph McKinney, CEO of the Catawba Digital Economic Zone, a new Special Economic Zone established by the Carolinas-based Catawba nation focused on FinTech, digital assets, and advancing the 21st-century digital economy. We discussed the economic and philosophical objectives of the Catawba DEZ. Its unique legal and regulatory frameworks, and how the zone is integrated into tribal governance, and more, I hope you enjoy today’s episode. Welcome to the show, Joseph.

 Joseph: Yeah, pleasure to be on.

 Jeffrey: Before we get into discussing the Catawba Digital Economic Zone — what it is, what it’s going to do, how the project came about. Tell us a bit about your background, and how you came to be the CEO of a Digital Economic Zone.

 Joseph: Sure. Started out in college in poli-sci philosophy. And just like a lot of people in university like really caring about wanting to make a positive impact in the world and seeing all these theories and wanting to make them a reality. I thought, like many others that the best way to do that was to go to law school and become a politician. But the more I went down that path, working, and think tanks, and local races, and what have you, I realized quickly that for one, that probably wasn’t going to be the best way to make an impact. Secondly, I would be absolutely miserable doing so.

At the same time, I realized that there’s a lot of impact from for-profit, or at least non-governmental angles like the Arab Spring was really kicking off. It was instigated by Twitter and, and Uber and Airbnb are making their own impacts in the world. Around that time, I became, Bitcoin was becoming more and more nascent. At that point, I realized, well, instead of simply arguing or trying to vote in one direction, why don’t we actually start to build an alternative and demonstrate an idea, and then let that scale from there. Other people can try to scale it and improve upon it.

After college I started working on a microfinance startup dealing with cryptocurrencies and my co-founder at the time, we got really interested in zones and special jurisdictions. We noticed that there were all these sorts of projects all around the world, especially really innovative ones, but the problem was, it kept making the same exact mistakes. They weren’t really connected with one another and didn’t really know each other. We formed an organization that would connect them all together, called the Star Societies Foundation, now Startup Societies Network.

We worked on that for quite a number of years, known for our tradeshow conferences, our academic journal, or how-to guide book and digital tools that were provided. In parallel to that, I was doing some for-profit consulting. In the process of doing that, one of the people that has Startup Society’s research arm, Institute for Competitive Governance, Tom W. Bell. Someone was reading his book about US Special Economic Zones, and turns out that that was a member of the tribe Special Economic Zone team. He was asking him how to make a US Special Economic Zone.

Tom, at the time, didn’t have much time to commit to it, but he forwarded it to me, because I have been consulting on some projects of combining special economic zones with opportunity zones and enterprise zones and what we call stack zones. So when it was presented to me, a lot of people in the United States thought that this was probably very silly. Native Americans are paper tigers. They don’t really have any real authority; history is the judge of that. The more I actually dug into the research, I found out the exact opposite is true, that Native Americans and tribal governments have at least the same authority as US states and sometimes even more.

The problem is, the reason why they haven’t had full-on jurisdictions that they’ve done these one-off opportunities with jurisdictional arbitrage, whether that’s gaming or cannabis or payday lending, is because they didn’t have full jurisdiction. The reason they didn’t make on a full-on jurisdiction is they didn’t have the capital, and they didn’t have the structure, because of that they weren’t able to bring in proper partners to bring that into reality. But quickly realized that Specially Economic Zone is precisely the type of structure that’s necessary to get on a holistic jurisdiction for businesses off the ground in Indian country.

I’m getting very excited. I personally moved down to South Carolina/North Carolina, the Carolinas, after we got an MOU from the tribes’ business arm. We started working directly with the tribes’ government, and as well as their business arm attorneys. We started working with them on the precise legislative package that we would try to implement together with the nation. That would consist of a commercial code, regulatory body in the for profit managing arm. After we developed and in parallel to developing this legislative package with the attorneys, we did the most important work. The work that I’m actually most proud of out of this project is the community engagement, meeting community elders, which really means meeting them in person, breaking bread like going to Golden Corral two times a week and having printed out some of the materials and talking to people, in-depth about it, building friendships, going door-to-door, sending printed materials to houses having science.

Essentially, the outcome was, as far as I can tell, one of the first grassroots movements for a special economic zone. Not only that but within the United States. As a consequence of that, we were able to secure a special session in February 19th, for a vote by the General Counsel, which according to the Catawba’s constitution and a lot of tribal governments in Indian country, that essentially means all voting age Catawbans. So there was a vote in February 19th, after initial questions, it was voted inland storm, so it was 99 to 33, I believe. I have a . Yeah, a huge popular support, and yeah, it is now law.

 Jeffrey: Very cool. Thank you for the overview. Then there’s a lot of stuff in your answer there that we’re going to get into in more detail later. But let’s just first start with, so I think a lot of people are probably familiar with the special economic zones, or you say that phrase, and maybe they think of something that looks an industrial park, or maybe it’s at a port or something. What is a digital economic zone?

 Joseph: Good question. Yeah, oftentimes, when people think of SEZ, they think of physical incentives. They think of ports and physical infrastructure. That makes a lot of sense. That’s been the vast majority of them, but a lot of listeners on this podcast, understand that especially economic zones have been moving more into general business environment, into regulations, and in some cases, even commercial codes. That’s the case with a digital economic zone. It’s providing that good business environment, legal and regulatory framework, even if you aren’t physically domicile there. I mean, there’s plenty of examples of this, the Dubai International Financial Center, we’re not plenty, but they exist, a lot of different SEZ. The difference is, simply just removing or at least, deprioritizing the physical elements of the zones.

It’s not an absurd concept. It’s used all the time. I mean, the Estonia is often hard example, but in the United States, the most important example, this is Delaware, the vast majority in the Silicon Valley have never set foot in Wilmington, yet almost every single company that’s on Sand Hill Road is a Delaware company. People use a legal framework or jurisdictional framework of places that they’ve never been all the time. You just don’t think about it. But this is the first example that it’s done in Indian country. It’s one of the few examples done through a special economic zone.

 Jeffrey: Right. You said a lot of these companies, normally they go to Delaware, that that’s the model, or maybe they just say that’s not that important to us, we’ll just incorporate it in California or Texas or wherever else. What are the actual legal regulatory advantages that this zone is offering that some other jurisdictions that also are the elsewhere in the US aren’t really available? What’s the advantage?

 Joseph: The very baseline in some of your users might actually be used, abused to this term, so I can actually use it. Our commercial code is based off a Ulex, which is a collection of best practices inspired and template laws from Uniform Law Commission, the American Bar Association and American Legal Institute. Rather than having a commercial code that’s riddled with special interest laws and laws that have existed for 100 years that are no longer relevant, we have this really clean commercial code that’s essentially built by lawyer monks that convene at conferences every couple of years and debate how many angels are in the pin of a perfected security interest and really get into the nitty-gritty of legal matters.

That’s our basic commercial code. We have that advantage at bare minimum. Number two, it’s the structure. A lot of regulatory bodies and legislators in the United States and around the world, they’re slow. They have a bunch of different priorities. They have a bunch of special interest and in fields especially in exponential technologies in frontier tech. They are slow and usually not really good at creating the legal and regulatory framework around it. With the code that we have, essentially, we have in reality, there’s a five-person commission that is responsible for implementing regulations. So by the time that let’s say Wyoming, which meets twice a year, is able to talk in committee about a certain amendment that they want to their commercial code, or to their Dow regulatory framework.

By the time that they go for recess, during the live stream, we could already be proposing it to the zoning authority, and they could implement it in short order before it’s even introduced to the legislature. So speed is a really huge component to that, but also having that for profit, aspect of it incentivizes business friendliness and ensuring going quickly to market and effective manner. As you and a lot of your colleagues and listeners of the show know, for profit special economic zones have an advantage because they have to cater to their customers, move quickly and provide the best experience.

With all those structural things, and at that baseline level of having that commercial code, we are the best jurisdiction for digital assets and registering remotely. Beyond that, just knowing the docket of regulations that we have going for digital assets, just a couple of days ago, we passed the holistic legal framework for integrating digital assets under existing law. So that is one of the few jurisdictions in the world that classifies and  digital assets under existing code. It’s the first jurisdiction world to have a very clear definition of what non-fungible token is.

 Jeffrey: Okay, very interesting. Within this legal framework that you’re in the process of building, how much of this is standing in place of rights of, this tribe is based in South Carolina. How much of this is replacing, or standing in for South Carolina law? How much is standing in place of federal law? What is actually the target in terms of the improved regulatory environment?

 Joseph: Here is the structure of Indian law in the United States and less tribes have voluntarily relinquished a sovereign right or capacity, or if Congress has removed that it very explicitly removed that right from the tribes, they are thought to retain, they do retain it. In the case of having your own commercial code, and having on regulatory codes for regulating businesses within their jurisdiction, the Catawba firm, we have that. So in terms of everything that’s relevant towards the zone, South Carolina, North Carolina laws don’t apply. To be clear, we do have properties both in North and South Carolina, and in fact, companies that will be registered within the zone will have a North Carolina address, most of that is for tax purposes because there’s no tax treaty with North Carolina and the tribe. There is in South Carolina, but in either case, both have firm authority to create their own commercial code, regulatory code, etc.

 Jeffrey: Okay. Yeah, that’s very interesting, because it’s always been, I think, really striking to me, there’s this almost paradoxical situation, I think, with regard to tribal governance, where, right, there’s significant sovereignty and self-government over some areas. But then in other places, there’s this very intrusive and paternalistic federal regulation.

 Joseph: Yeah.

 Jeffrey: I think it’s interesting how I think this zone is striking out, a middle ground in there and feeling out where the opportunities are in a way where you’ll you don’t have to go back to say, the Bureau of Indian Affairs to get every little thing done that you need done.

 Joseph: Exactly. Those are the big facets that Indian countries had difficulties with in the past that this is honest, and have to deal with as much overall. I mean like you mentioned, with the BIA. The biggest thing that the tribe has to go back to is often with land. It’s not as burdensome as you would might have to think, but you can’t have for instance, you can’t have leaseholds that are longer than 25 years without a BIA or process to go longer than that. With criminal law, there’s some back and forth, but everything within our code right here is civil law and economic regulations, so that’s not a problem. That’s why a Digital Economic Zone is just the best fit for Indian law and in for Indian country.

 Jeffrey: Right. How does the tribe actually benefit from the zone? Is there a revenue stream that goes to the tribe? How is that relationship structured?

  Joseph: The entity that manages and finances and provides the services and software to run the zone that isn’t as a for-profit entity that’s majority owned by the Catawba. They have a majority on that board and the zone authority is completely on, in fact, is a part of the government. So in terms of direct financial remuneration, they’re the largest stakeholder, majority stakeholder and have complete control. In terms of more indirect we’re working with a nation to develop a training program where they get accreditation and work with different institutions to get hired by companies that domicile within the zone as well as opportunities to work within the zone authority or the for profit management company itself. It’s not just creating dividends like other projects in Indian country. The goal is to have holistic economic development where people are developing skills to be part of this new economy.

 Jeffrey: Okay, very interesting. Are there any plans to eventually look towards some physical assets or place to doing business outright, you referenced earlier, the DIFC and we think of that as this somewhat online jurisdiction right, there is still a physical DIFC, or is that not part of the year long term plan?

 Joseph: Yeah, yeah. We’re definitely exploring physical infrastructure or Data Mining. So for data centers, supercomputers and crypto mining, that’s our main focus right now. It’s probably the best revenue generating potential there. In Indian country, you get preferential energy rates with the power companies. They usually get economic or government rate for those types of projects. That’s what we’re looking at initial stages, there might be some small office basically, that’s a little bit more medium and long term.

 Jeffrey: Okay, got it. Yeah. Wait, when you mentioned crypto mining, my first thought was, is there an opportunity here for regulatory arbitrage in terms of maybe building power generation or something that can be sold back to the surrounding area or something like that?

 Joseph: Yeah, definitely. There’s some definite advantages.

 Jeffrey: Okay. You mentioned a little bit earlier about what the governing structure looks like, as I understand it, there’s two entities, there’s the direct, there’s the zone, as a corporate structure itself, and then there’s a zone authority.

 Joseph: Yeah.

 Jeffrey: What does that authority actually do in terms of oversight? What does that relationship look like?

 Joseph: Yeah. So the main functions of the zone authority are to be responsible for promulgating regulations, and for registering companies. Basically, the government end of all this. Imagine a Secretary of State mixed with a financial services regulator. That’s what his own authority is, and it’s managed by this five-person commission, especially in the realm of promulgating regulations, but they delegate to other people for the day-to-day management of the company. We hope to bring on an equivalent of a Secretary of State, which we call a Secretary of Zone, and Attorney of Zone, like an Attorney General, as well as different financial services, regulators for the different aspects of the zone as we go through our document different regulations.

 Jeffrey: Okay. So since we’re talking about financial services, and this thing, and there’s been a lot of lot of talk lately about what is the SEZ and other regulatory agencies? What are they going to do about crypto, all of these new kinds of digital assets? How does that affect what the zone is doing? Or does that not touch what goes on in the zone?

 Joseph: We are affected in the same way that states are, but I think, like I mentioned, states have enormous amount of authority that they just don’t go the full nine yards for and have significant autonomy is when it guards to banking or blue sky laws and commercial code, insurance and what have you. It does impact, but there are federal frameworks for interstate commerce versus interstate commerce as well as financial thing native in my native I mean, from the jurisdiction, not Native American charters for different financial institutions.

  Jeffrey: You mentioned earlier that the Dubai International Financial Center, he referenced the Zed A’s and Honduras zones for Employment and Economic Development. I’m curious how these jurisdictions and maybe any others that were influential how their legal frameworks or how specific projects or entities developed under those frameworks have been influential in the design of this zone?

 Joseph: Well, I mean, so they’ve been beneficial in the sense that you can develop a legal code and you can put it somewhere that it wasn’t there before. I would say that we’re in a bit of an improvement. This is less of an imposition than let’s say, the Dubai zones where the Dubai zones are especially the DIFC people often refer to them as English and Welsh common law, but in reality, it’s a legal code that was developed by British attorneys, and then they differ to baseline English common law when they conflict or there’s a disagreement or what have you. But in reality, it’s developed from these attorneys, which it’s not usually the best way to develop a legal code.

What’s best and what I about Ulex is that all of the codes that we have there are emergent over many years, the stuff from the American legal Institute. It’s based on the restatements of a common law, which is essentially an aggregation of all common law jurisdictions around the world and the ruling that they have and to create what they call Black Letter rulings. Instead of creating something from scratch. They’re looking at what common law precedent has set in these emerging jurisdictions and then using that instead. That’s what I prefer, though, obviously seeing the success of DIFC, we looked at if you can implement the best class legal code, you can create some really great results.

 Jeffrey: Another element of a lot of these types of jurisdictions is that they have built-in dispute resolution mechanisms, whether that’s some arbitration system or even their own separate court structure. Is the zone going to have its own dispute resolution system internally?

 Joseph: Right now, it’s default arbitration and what you can do as someone who has set up any zone, you can set up whatever choice of venue you want in your contracts. In fact, this is a benefit. A lot of people talk about how they like the chancery court, for instance, you’re allowed to use our legal code and to set up a company in our zone, but still choose as a choice of venue, the chancery court for your disputes. So you get the best of both worlds, you get to the case law and chancery court and you get to use their decision-making while at the same time you get the benefit of having our best-in-class legal code and how it relates to digital assets. It’s almost like Delaware’s subsidizing their competition. But yes, we do have plans in the medium term to have some arbital portal, and maybe even eventually a physical place.

 Jeffrey: Okay, very interesting.

 Joseph: Yeah. The tribe can set up courts to affirm arbitral decisions of whatever sort as well.

 Jeffrey: Okay. Yeah, I wanted to follow up and ask on that as well, because that’s one of the notable, I think areas with regard to tribal sovereignty is that they can have their own courts. I’m wondering how, that be perhaps the first destination for eventual appeals of any decisions?

 Joseph: Yeah.

 Jeffrey: From arbitration. Okay. I believe you mentioned earlier that the General Counsel of the nation approved the zone for operation and in February. How is the business in the zone actually going so far? How many companies are incorporated? What are predictions for the next couple of years? What do those look like?

 Joseph: Yeah. So we’ve been really been focusing on building the administration of the zone authority. Believe it or not, it’s difficult to form a government body. But we’re doing pretty good and, for lack of better word, we’ve had to build a bureaucracy. We have those administrative codes in place, those bylaws, administrative procedure regulations. The Commission setup, the basic regulations and right now we’re implementing the really basic ones like the digital asset regulation. Now we’re getting to the more interesting stuff. In parallel, we’re signing LOIs in different companies that are interested in chartering banking institutions in the zone or just setting up normal entities, as well as partnerships with different organizations and Web3 that might be interested.

Ultimately, we want to make sure that we hire a reputable set of regulators before we do, because we don’t want to start registering companies. I mean, in a sense, this is a startup jurisdiction, it’s good to be quick and nimble, as I’ve talked about a lot. But ultimately, this is a government. You can’t bootstrap everything. You need to have credibility and gravitas and experience. We want to make sure that we hire competent regulators. For that we’re, and for other things, obviously. We’re conducting a fundraiser. Once we close, then we’ll be off to the races.

 Jeffrey: Okay, very interesting. Yeah, I think it’s actually often an underrated point within this special jurisdiction, competitive governments, governance landscape, that their getting that foundation in place is quite important, before just opening up with your good laws on paper, but you actually have to be able to carry that and execute, executing that and carry it out.

 Joseph: Exactly.

 Jeffrey: Long term in terms of intended scope for the project is the zone as we’re seeing this exodus of tech companies from San Francisco, right? There’s all this talk about going to Seattle and other places. Going to Austin, Miami, other places, while at the same time remote work is really kicking off. How do you see the future of the zone fitting into these existing trends?

 Joseph: Right. So first and foremost, our goal is to disrupt and unprone Delaware. We can help in at least in that aspect, and where their legal domicile is. There may be some opportunities that the Catawba are uniquely prime for that can’t really get into right now in the longer term, that can provide a really good space for as a competitor towards let’s say, Florida or Texas or what have you in terms of actually physically relocating. But for now, purely digital, purely Company Incorporation and making sure that Delaware actually has a little bit of heat under there butt, for once.

 Jeffrey: Right. Now, you’ve talked about how primarily right now, in terms of industries of focus, it’s crypto with its financial assets. But of course, lots of companies incorporated in Delaware. Is the eventual plan to scale outwards in terms of industries of interest and in terms of who the regulatory system is set up to incorporate and then support.

 Joseph: Yeah. Our goal is to be a general jurisdiction, but like any company, you need to have an initial target market. We think that the most opportunities is within the Web3 space, because, not even because of over regulation, but in most cases, its lack of clarity and definition. That’s a pretty easy lift in terms of that, and there’s plenty of growth opportunity and space. Once we really dominate that particular niche, then we’re going to scale even further to just the best general jurisdiction for setting up companies remotely. And the zone authority has all the authority to do that. It does specifically mentioned things like Digital Assets, FinTech, Insurance, Securities, Banking, what have you, but it makes it clear that that’s not the limit of its authority, that this is just things that “Just to be clear. The zoning authority has total authority to make regulations that are consistent with nations laws and its role and what have you”.

 Jeffrey: Okay, got it. Now, I think you also earlier you sort of mentioned Estonia and their e-residency program is particularly interesting, because they’re doing something similar to what you’re doing in terms of creating an attractive environment. But the real play right with the Estonia, is that here is an easy way for individuals located outside of the European Common Market to quickly and easily get access to that very large market. Will this soon be able to do a similar function for access to the US market for people located outside of the US who often have a difficult time getting access?

 Joseph: Yes.

 Jeffrey: To our market?

 Joseph: Absolutely. That’s one of the biggest value propositions of this Zone. In fact, I think how, I’m sure you do, how Peter Thiel always asked, “What is the one thing that you believe that your colleagues or people in space don’t believe?” I believe that the United States, especially for this type of zone, is the most competitive place to have a special economic zone rather than outside jurisdictions like in Africa, or Latin America, and what have you, because the United States has such a dearth of capital and payment rails and investors and human capital.

Also just general capital stability, obviously, people talk all the time about decline of the United States to a certain extent, that’s very real. But at the end of the day, it’s one heck of a brand. Its business environment is still very strong, but it needs to be improved in certain vectors. And what Special Economic Zone provides is an opportunity to improve upon those vectors where they are needed. At the same time, having access to all those things I just talked about that make it still one of the most competitive jurisdictions in the world.

Having access to US banking, and to US investors and markets and what have you, it just makes it horribly, horribly competitive. I mean, that’s essentially why Delaware is so huge, because there are people around the world that want access to those things, but can access them easily from their jurisdictions. The best way to do it is to do it remotely, but now they’re going to find that Delaware is not as customer-focused as this upstart in the Carolinas.

 Jeffrey: Yeah. It’s taking on the incumbent dinosaur who enjoys its friends very much. I’m wondering, it seems there’s a growing possibility of more zone-type-based governance being implemented in the US. There’s this project. I think it ultimately went nowhere, but there was some talk for a while about in Nevada a program that — the short version is that would have basically allowed companies to set up county equivalent governments. Historically, the US really doesn’t have a culture of zone-based governments, right? But you have the free trade zones at the airports and seaports and that’s thing, but that that’s not really that interesting.

 Joseph: Well, I mean, recent history.

 Jeffrey: Yeah.

 Joseph: I mean, the whole history of the country in a long arc is specifically about zone based or different types of new communities. It’s just not frequent now, but maybe this reemergence.

 Jeffrey: Yeah. Do you think that’s likely?

 Joseph: Potentially. I mean, here’s the thing, a lot of people now this sounds just like an arrogant, contrarian thing to say is, but I used to think that the United States was doing bad before everyone did. Now I think the opposite, but it’s true. I really do. I am long-term bullish in the United States. I think it’s going into some real growing pains right now, but I think, there’s an opportunity for local and for lack of a better word, decentralized governance, picking up the slack where federal and state institutions have not. These sovereign governments, these Native American tribes, they have this opportunity. I think the goal is as long as we don’t screw up, which I’m confident that we won’t.

Then we can demonstrate to the world that this can happen and the way forward, and that will serve as a light to help others. That’s our goal. Our goal is to help when – I’m trying to say this without sounding too grandiose, our goal is to reinvigorate American federalism, and good governance in the states and to show that things aren’t hopeless, that there is a way forward. I can’t think of a better and more strategic route to go than to focus on frontier technologies that are badly regulated like Web3.

 Jeffrey: Yeah. I think that’s a really great point. I think the last couple of years have shown that it’s 100% worth, at the very least worth trying, new forms of governance, so these new competitive efforts, because it’s become very clear that a lot of the existing institutions are simply not up to the job. It’s time to build some new ones.

 Joseph: Think about from a karma or justice standpoint, can you think of anything more beautiful than historically, Native Americans have been absolutely screwed over by what people often think of as technology or colonialism and what have you, and markets and what have you. That’s always been the frame, but now you’re at the point where tribal governments are saving the United States, potentially, by specifically being good at technology, by being good at markets by being good at regulation. I can’t think of a more exciting form of peaceful and prosperous form of justice and karma. I think it could be very beautiful.

 Jeffrey: I agree. I’m reminded of that major real estate project that the Squamish nation is developing in Vancouver, where they’re basically exempt from all the local zoning restrictions. They’re building something, a development that’s at a scale that you might see and maybe Hong Kong or some other East Asian cities, which I think is really exciting. I think it fits into this broader trend of, in North America of tribes, but elsewhere in the world of other different sub-national groups and other communities that are taking these kinds of steps forward to try and build these new, better institutions. I think that’s really exciting.

 Joseph: Exactly. Not only is there support within these nations for these sub-nationalities or indigenous groups, but also on an international scale with international organizations, NGOs, and the like, all very enthusiastically supporting the rights of indigenous self-governance. Pretty much all down the stack, there’s support for this type of project in self-government. I can’t think of a more ideal time in history to be working on this type of project.

 Jeffrey: Joseph, thank you for sharing and teaching us about this new jurisdiction, where I think we’re all excited to see how things develop over the next few years. But before we go is there anything else about the zone that maybe we haven’t touched on yet that you would like to share?

 Joseph: No, just keep tuned, it’s going to get more exciting. You can check out our recent publications and Forbes, Fortune, and this morning on CoinDesk, and just make sure to check out the Zone, yeah, because a lot of you guys are nerds, legal nerds. Check check out our legal code and our upcoming regulations. We’re one the first, in fact the first government to use discord for commenting period, so go check that out, too. Yeah, had a great time.

 Jeffrey: Very cool, everybody, please check those out. Go join the Discord. Thank you. Thank you for being on the show today, Joseph.

 Joseph: Yeah, of course. Thank you.

 Kurtis: Thanks so much for listening. We love engaging with our listeners, so please always feel free to reach out. Contact information is listed in the show notes. To find out more about the work of the Charter Cities Institute, please follow us on social media, or visit

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Joseph McKinney on LinkedIn

Startup Societies Network

Catawba Digital Economic Zone
Forbes: This Indian Nation Is Setting Up A Special Economic Zone For Crypto, Fintech, Blockchain On Native Land

Fortune: Is the future of crypto regulation on tribal land?

Coindesk: US Tribal Nation-Backed Economic Zone Passes Rules Defining Digital Assets


Charter Cities Institute

Charter Cities Institute on Facebook

Charter Cities Institute on Twitter


Follow & subscribe for updates.