Prince Charles and Camilla wrap up whirlwind visit to N.W.T.
'While we're receptive ... this is still Treaty land,' said Yellowknives Dene councillor
A pair of Yellowknives Dene First Nation (YKDFN) councillors say Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, were very polite and interested in learning about Dene culture during their stop in Dettah, N.W.T., on Thursday.
The royal couple were in the Dene community, which is 25 kilometres away from Yellowknife, as part of their third and final day of their Canada tour. The visit comes in honour of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee, a celebration of Queen Elizabeth II's 70 years on the throne.
"They were just very interested in everything, and really took an interest in learning how everything is done," said Kateri Lynn, a member of the YKDFN council. Lynn and Jessica Sangris, another councillor, both wore beaded pins that said "Land Back" while showing Charles and Camilla traditional hunting items and gifting them with moccasins.
"I think it's very important to recognize that while we're receptive and happy to receive them, that this is still Treaty land," said Sangris. "It would be nice to have our traditional land back."
Prince Charles participates in drum dance
The four-hour royal visit began just before 2 p.m. with an airport arrival, where the couple was welcomed by Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty and N.W.T. Commissioner Margaret Thom. The couple also accepted flowers from seven-year-old Sahaiʔa Talbot, a student at K'àlemì Dene School.
Then, the couple spent roughly an hour and a half in Dettah.
Fred Sangris, the Yellowknives Dene First Nation Chief for Ndilǫ, told CBC News Network that Prince Charles took part in a drum dance.
"Nobody thought he would, but he did have a dance once around, and that shows that he does care and wants to help," he said. Sangris said he and other leaders had the chance to speak with Charles about reconciliation, residential schools, the Giant Mine remediation project and a lack of housing.
"I think he understood. He was really attentive, listening to our concerns."
For parts of the trip, Charles and Camilla separated. Charles headed to Fred Henne Territorial Park in Yellowknife to meet with the Canadian Rangers. The prince briefly sat atop a snowmobile — a critical means of transportation in the North — and was shown different animal furs, drums and weapons. He was also set to become an honourary member of the Canadian Rangers.
Charles then attended the Rotary Centennial Park — near the former entry point for the now melting Dettah ice road — to speak with climate change activists. The ice road has been closed for the season since April 22. Camilla, meanwhile, visited with students at Dettah's Kaw Tay Whee School and then headed to Yellowknife to visit the YWCA's transitional housing centre for women and children.
📍 Kaw Tay Whee Community School, Dettah<br><br>Wiìliìdeh yatìi hoghàgohto gha mahsi ts'įwo.<br><br>Thank you for teaching us to learn Wıìlıìdeh with you! <a href="https://t.co/6lJevrgqsK">pic.twitter.com/6lJevrgqsK</a>—@ClarenceHouse
The royal couple reunited at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre — a facility that was named after Prince Charles when it opened in 1979 — for a tour.
Charles met with food producers at the museum to discuss food production and entrepreneurship, as well as environmental challenges. He also took part in a discussion on Treaty 11 and the royal couple observed a demonstration of traditional Inuit sports.
Charles and Camilla then went to a public flag-raising and the unveiling of a plaque behind the Joint Task Force North building near Frame Lake. At the final stop of the whirlwind visit, N.W.T. Premier Caroline Cochrane gave a Métis sash to Charles and a Dene birch bark basket to Camilla. Cochrane also gifted an Inuit muskox horn sculpture.
Climate change call to action
At the site near Frame Lake, Charles delivered a speech before a large crowd of people, much of which focused on climate change — an issue he said he's been striving to bring to the forefront of international consciousness for many years.
"What I've heard and witnessed first hand of the devastating impact of climate change here in the North merely convinces me of the supremely urgent need to take decisive, bold action," he said.
He directly called on the N.W.T.'s leadership to work with traditional knowledge keepers to "restore harmony with nature" and to look at renewable energy solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — like biofuels, hydropower, solar and wind.
"Time is rapidly running out," he said. "To succeed we would need to restore our relationship with nature, challenge the status quo, innovate new businesses and financial models, work across borders at scale, and ensure a just and sustainable transition for all."
Charles also thanked people in Dettah for their willingness to share their traditions and knowledge with him and his wife, and said it was "deeply moving" to meet residential school survivors.
"On behalf of my wife and myself, I want to acknowledge their suffering and to say how much our hearts go out to them and their families," he said. "We must listen to the truth of the lived experience of Indigenous peoples and we should work to understand better their pain and suffering."
Kathy Franki lives in Dettah, where the royal couple attended a number of public events, including a fire-feeding ceremony and a meeting with Indigenous leaders and elders. Franki came out to see the royals with her common law partner.
"I'll tell my granddaughter I seen Prince Charles," she said.
Jackson Lafferty, the Tłı̨chǫ Grand Chief, was among those gathered in Dettah to greet the royal couple. He described the visit as "very exciting."
"His [Charles'] prime focus is climate change, environment and also reconciliation, Indigenous reconciliation. There's been talks about that, which is great."
The royal tour ended with an evening departure ceremony at the airport.
With files from Sidney Cohen