This social enterprise is building Indigenous ethical systems into digital tools — here’s what you can learn

Indigenous Friends’ app is a tool for Indigenous youth to socialize and share traditional knowledge.

Why It Matters

Building Indigenous value systems into the bedrock of an app allows an Indigenous developer or online community to practice digital sovereignty — meaningful control over their digital space that allows them to safely share their culture, language, and practices.

“What’s the difference between you and a private Facebook group?” is a question Alejandro Lakgaxixiwa Mayoral Baños frequently encounters when he brings up his organization’s Indigenous-only app. 

The executive director of Indigenous Friends, a social enterprise focused on Indigenous digital education and autonomy, likens the app to a tipi — the traditional hide-and-wood dwellings of Indigenous communities on the Great Plains that serve as places of ceremony. Strict protocols govern conduct within a tipi. Anyone within a tipi is not allowed to repeat what was said inside when they leave. This ethos is the complete opposite of Facebook’s rules, where over a billion users can say nearly whatever they wish to anyone with a public account. 

Mayoral Banos began speaking with elders about the difficulties they were hearing from Indigenous students in Toronto in

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