William and Kate take canoe ride on N.W.T. lake

Prince William and Kate sat around a campfire with Canadian Rangers, toured a northern "bush university" and took a canoe ride on Blachford Lake as part of their trip to the Northwest Territories.

Royals at Blachford Lake

12 years ago
Duration 1:06
Prince William and Kate spend some time canoeing and touring around Blachford Lake in the Northwest Territories.

Prince William and Kate sat around a campfire with Canadian Rangers, toured a northern "bush university" and took a canoe ride on Blachford Lake as part of their trip to the Northwest Territories.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the couple left Yellowknife in a float plane bound for Blachford Lake after spending the day in the territory capital.

There, they met residents and royal fans at Somba K'e Civic Park and attended a youth parliament session at the Northwest Territories legislature building.

Following a 20-minute flight from the Northwest Territories capital, the royal couple was greeted at Blachford Lake by federal Defence Minister Peter MacKay, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, Brig.-Gen. Guy Hamel of the Canadian Forces' Joint Task Force North, and members of the 1st Canadian Ranger Patrol Group.

William and Kate toured the Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning, a self-described "bush university" that combines Western-style academia with northern aboriginal studies in a wilderness setting.

Established last year, Dechinta offers university-accredited programs in which students live "off the grid" at Blachford Lake to learn about northern culture, governance and perspectives on climate change, education and other issues.

The royal couple were also invited to a fireside conversation with Dechinta participants.

They sat around a campfire with a group of Rangers — a largely aboriginal sub-component of the Canadian Forces Reserve — and listened to throat singers while sampling Arctic char and bannock.

William, who had been made an honorary Ranger on a previous visit, was presented with a knife made especially for him by Yukon blade maker George Roberts, while Kate was given a bright red Ranger sweatshirt.

"It's a good look," William said while watching his wife pull the sweatshirt over her head.

At the university, they watched as an elder cut up raw caribou on a bed of pine needles, then watched it get hung to dry under a smoker in a teepee.

They also  met and talked with students and elders for half an hour in a circle by the shore around a campfire.

The final event was a canoe ride out to an island on Blachford Lake. William was in the lead, with Kate paddling in the middle and their guide Francois Paulette in the stern.

The newlyweds were even able to sneak in three hours of privacy on the island before heading back to the float plane which was to take them back to Yellowknife.

Street hockey in Yellowknife

Earlier on Tuesday, while at Somba K'e Civic Park, William and Kate watched part of a street hockey game involving local youth. William picked up a hockey stick to take three shots on net. However, the prince was unable to get any of his shots past goalie Calvin Lomen, who saved the first two shots.

Lomen, 20, who is from Fort Liard, N.W.T., told CBC News he thought William's hockey skills were "somewhat moderate, I guess."

Lomen said he considered, at one point, letting one of William's goals in. He did not need to save the prince's third shot, however, since it missed the net.

Kate, wearing a cream linen three-quarter dress by Malene Birger, opted to drop the street hockey ball in a faceoff.

The royal couple had arrived at the park at 11:40 a.m. to screams and squeals from more than 1,000 people who had gathered since early morning.

"It's great to be north of 60," William said to cheers from the crowd. "This place is what Canada is all about."

Goalie Calvin Lomen, 20, said he had briefly thought of allowing one of William's shots into the net. Lomen saved two of the prince's three shots, while the third missed the net. ((CBC))

Following performances by the Dettah Drummers and the Paulatuk Moonlight Drummers and Dancers, William and Kate strolled around the park with dignitaries and observed some Dene and Inuit sport demonstrations.

At 1 p.m. William and Kate observed a youth parliament session at the N.W.T. legislature, to get a better sense of how the territory's unique system of consensus government works.

The Northwest Territories and Nunavut are the only jurisdictions in Canada with governments that operate under the consensus model, in which there are no political parties and elected members elect the premier and cabinet ministers among themselves.

Also at the legislature, Northwest Territories Premier Floyd Roland presented William with diamond cufflinks and Kate with a diamond brooch. Both are shaped like polar bears and made with diamonds from the N.W.T.'s Diavik mine.

While it was sunny in Yellowknife on Tuesday, the couple arrived amid heavy rainfall at the Yellowknife airport at 7:40 p.m. Monday, following an active day on Prince Edward Island.

In a last-minute itinerary change announced on Tuesday, William and Kate will stop in Slave Lake, Alta., for a few hours on Wednesday morning to meet with firefighters and people whose homes were destroyed by this spring's wildfires.

Aboriginal ties to Royal Family

Many among the aboriginal community feel the historic tie with the Royal Family. One of the drummers who have been practising for weeks ahead of the demonstration for the couple is Bobby Drygeese, who comes from a long line of Dene chiefs.

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He hopes the performance will help William and Kate appreciate that "this is our land; this is what we grow up with."

More than a century ago, Drygeese's ancestors negotiated the first treaties in the area, and his grandfather was chief when the Queen visited the Northwest Territories in the 1970s, when the Dene community was trying to get a road built.

"He talked to the Queen," Drygeese said of his grandfather, "and the Queen told them to build a road here. So they built the road. It was really good my grandfather did that."

The relationship with the Royal Family is "rich and it goes deep," said Shawn Atleo, grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations. "And it is a very sacred one, in fact."

He hopes the royal visit will inspire First Nations youth to take a closer look at their treaty rights established with the Crown.

With files from The Canadian Press, CBC's Cameron MacIntosh and Allison Devereaux