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Early warning focus of upgraded Talking Stick feature

First Nations partners with TryCycle Data Systems to create a community-operated alert system for public safety.
A representation of FirstAlerts on a device along with a photo of condolences sent to James Smith Cree Nation following a stabbing rampage that resulted in 11 deaths in 2022.

JAMES SMITH CREE NATION - A private technology company, TryCycle Data Systems Inc., in partnership with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), has created a safety alert app to warn residents of First Nation communities about emergencies.

FirstAlerts is a new feature in the Talking Stick app. It’s a community-driven solution designed by and for Indigenous communities and a free download in the App Stores.

James Smith Cree Nation leaders signed an agreement with FSIN and Talking Stick on Feb. 14, making them the first band to implement FirstAlerts in their community.

“The safety and health of our community remain our utmost priorities. For several years, we’ve been searching for a way to notify our people of emergencies. During the massacre in September 2022, we saw how important time-sensitive emergency communication was when it comes to saving lives, and unfortunately, our community was devastated when 11 people from James Smith and Weldon were murdered,” said James Smith Cree Nation Chief Wally Burns.

“In 2023, the community went into lockdown twice, once in July and once in September, while RCMP tracked down armed individuals. The new alert app is a game changer as it helps community leaders warn band members of danger and criminal activity.”

With FirstAlerts, information and alert messages can be tailored to the situation and the community itself, by stating the type of emergency, times, location, and recommended actions people should follow to stay safe. The system includes three categories, public safety, missing persons, and natural disasters. It’s the first system of its kind for First Nations in Canada. The app allows notifications to reach specific groups of people, regions, and cultures while incorporating Indigenous language capabilities.

“We are moving in the right direction. FirstAlerts will help save lives. I can see lots of useful applications for it when it comes to violence, missing persons, and weather emergencies. I like that we can include our own local place names, cultural knowledge, and details,” said Peter Chapman Chief Robert Head.

First Nations communities have complete authority over the information sent to band members with FirstAlerts. With the app, authorized emergency managers can send crucial updates in seconds, and information reaches community members in real time.

“Through our relationship with FSIN, we’ve listened to the voices of First Nation leaders, echoing the urgent need for effective ways to communicate with their membership during a crisis. With the introduction of FirstAlerts in the Talking Stick app, we are putting the control of the messaging directly into the hands of Indigenous communities,” said TryCycle Data Systems CEO John MacBeth.

The anonymity of the Talking Stick app extends to FirstAlerts. Users of the app remain anonymous. The app's guests can opt-in to receive alerts by selecting it in their personal preferences.

“We encourage all our band members to download the Talking Stick app and take advantage of the free services. The app has been known to help people through their peer support chat app; FirstAlerts is a natural extension and new way technology can improve safety in our local community,” said Chakastaypasin Chief Calvin Sanderson.

The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and TryCycle Data say FirstAlerts is available to every First Nations community in the province.

Link to FirstAlerts animation: