On the penultimate day of their Royal visit to Canada, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were privileged to visit the very remote Haida Gwaii islands, off the northern coast of British Columbia. Here, they once more met with First Nations communities, getting the chance to ride in a war canoe, fish in the clear waters and open a local hospital.
After arriving at the largest settlement of Skidegate, William and Kate transferred to a traditional Haida war canoe and helped the Haida First Nation residents of the archipelago row to the beach.
The Royal couple, along with 10 warrior paddlers, three community leaders, and two bodyguards, rowed for 25 minutes over a kilometre. When they safely found dry land, chef Edi Sazt had a dish of freshly caught smoked sable fish with chanterelle mushrooms and sea asparagus waiting for them. The chef said that he had prepared a special surprise twist to remind them of home: mushy peas.
When asked about his guests aboard, paddler Jason Alsop, known as Gaagwiis in Haida, said, “We had extra-precious cargo. It’s a little extra care and attention.”
Eight of the rowers, and a number of locals, wore blue T-shirts saying “No LNG” (liquefied natural gas), in a peaceful protest against planned gas fields, following a recent approval. They say they are in fear for the local environment.
Ever the gentleman, William took Catherine’s hand and helped his wife from the canoe, to then go and meet the locals.
The Duke and Duchess were officially welcomed by the locals and President of the Haida Nation – a matriarchal society – in the Haida Heritage Centre and Museum, where they were treated to a cultural performance by 30 local children. This included two dances in honour of each of their children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte.
As a welcome gift, the parents-of-two were given traditional scarves trimmed with sea otter fur seen in the image above.
They met a local girl called Claire Swain whose great, great-great-great grandfather met King George VI in 1939, and looked around the heritage centre where they were shown carved totem poles.
In an address to guests, Prince William said “The historic link between the Crown and the First Nations people is strong and is one that I hold dear to my heart.”
He even attempted a few words in the local lingo, Haida, saying: “Aan t’alang isis ska-wada-gee id ga dalang kil laa, haaw.” (Thank you very much for having us here.)
“And so it is an honour for me to be here with you, to see that your traditions remain strong.”
Video: Prince William speaks a few words of Haida – brave man! pic.twitter.com/cJKiwwD2Lj
— Rebecca English (@RE_DailyMail) September 30, 2016
During a reception at Government House a few days ago, the Duke took part in a ceremony marking friendship between the Crown and First Nation Settlers in Canada, an important occasion for the future King of Canada. William put the final ‘Ring of Reconciliation’ on to the Black Rod, which represents the power that flows from the Sovereign to the legislature.
Following this, the Royal guests were taken to the village of Queen Charlotte where they opened the new Haida Gwaii Hospital and Care Centre The new facility means locals now don’t have to leave the area to give birth, or for elderly care. William and Kate spent time chatting with those who would benefit from the hospital.
The Duke and Duchess have arrived at the new Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre. pic.twitter.com/AblpWoYezV
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) September 30, 2016
Mid-afternoon saw the Duke and Duchess join young people from the Skidegate Youth Centre for a spot of fishing on the waters of Hectate Strait, to try to catch some salmon or halibut which are plentiful in the water.
The couple was lucky and were seen with a salmon fish at the end of a rod, as well as a basket of crabs on the boat.
Meeting young people who have benefited from team building and confidence building activities through the Youth Centre is a continuation of Their Highnesses commitment to young people.
Saturday marks their final day of the tour, where we expect a family outing to the Cridge Centre, then some joint engagements for William and Catherine, including mental health charities and sailing. The Cambridges will depart after a plane trip over Vancouver Island.