The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have completed the third day of their week-long tour of Canada, on a rainy day in Bella Bella and a trip into the Great Bear Rainforest.
After a busy first two days visiting Victoria and Vancouver, the Royal couple started their third day by visiting Bella Bella, a small Heiltsuk First Nation community located on Campbell Island. William and Kate were originally to have an aerial tour of the Great Bear Rainforest, followed by a boat ride across McLoughlin bay. However, a torrential downpour caused the plans to be shelved.
After a bumpy flight, William and Catherine enjoyed a traditional Heiltsuk welcome ceremony inside a one-room community centre, as the rain moved the ceremony indoors. Hundreds of people had gathered for the Royal guests, along with hereditary chiefs, and they cheered upon the couple’s arrival.
Hereditary Chief Jim White was first to greet the Cambridges. He said: “We have sat here patiently awaiting your arrival your Royal Highnesses, you have graced us with your presence.”
During the greeting, the chief was holding a staff which dates back to the reign of Queen Victoria. It was presented to the aboriginals as a gift from the Queen over a century ago. After the handshaking, prayers and traditional Heiltsuk dances were performed.
After the ceremony, the Duke and Duchess travelled next door to Elders Lodge, where a dedication ceremony took place. Prince William made a speech, where he dedicated the Great Bear Rainforest as part of the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy Initiative, a network of conservation activists throughout all 53 commonwealth nations. The Duke said that the preservation of rainforests would “benefit indigenous communities, wildlife and tourism.”
The Great Bear Rainforest spreads over 6.4 million hectares. 85% of the rainforest is now protected under the initiative. After the dedication ceremony, where they unveiled a plaque to mark the event, the Royal couple visited a new walking trail that is currently being constructed.
The community’s Chief Marilyn Slett said: “What better way for the Duke and Duchess to learn about the people who live in the Great Bear Rainforest than to come to our territories. While in our community they will see a strong and vibrant community and culture.” However the chief also commented that the Royal couple would only experience a small glimpse of Heiltsuk life.
To conclude the day’s events, the Duke and Duchess returned over 700 miles south to Government House, Victoria. After their arrival, Prince William made a historic gesture by installing the final ‘Ring of Reconciliation’ on to the Black Rod. This symbolises the relationship of the Sovereign to the aboriginal peoples of British Columbia. The Black Rod is a symbol used to represent the power that flows from the Sovereign to the legislature.