Even though the visit didn’t go quite as planned, the coastal community of Bella Bella in the Great Bear Rainforest, welcomed Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge on September 26.
The royal couple took a bumpy flight into Bella Bella, but had to cancel boat-related tours of the Great Bear Rainforest because of heavy rains and gusting winds.
Bella Bella is home to the Heiltsuk Community of about 1,600 people, reports Metro News, and they gave the royal couple quite the welcome. Telegraph Video called the welcome they received “rapturous,” and Global News reported a “rousing cheer” as the couple arrived at Wawiskas Community Hall.
Courtesy Instagram/Heiltsuk Tribal Council
The Heiltsuk Tribal Council posted this image to its Instagram account with the tag “ Beautiful #Heiltsuk dancers are ready to show #RoyalVisitCanada who they are.”
Indeed, the community was excited, as Heiltsuk Hereditary Chief Harvey Humchitt told Metro News, despite visits from Governors General, celebrities and politicians, it was the first visit from royalty for the small community.
He also explained that one of his roles as hereditary chief is to protect the Heiltsuk people’s lands. So this visit was an opportunity to show how successful the community has been in defending the land from industrial development.
“The Heiltsuk have been really involved in trying to keep our lands pristine,” he told Metro News. “We know there has to be some development in our territories, but we try to do it in a sustainable fashion. We’ve worked really hard to manage and control harvesting of logs in a sustainable way and [keeping] the oceans clear of fish farms.”
William and Kate were invited to stroll through the “largest temperate rainforest left in the world,” Marilyn Slett, elected Chief Councellor of the Heiltsuk Tribal Council, told Metro News. She was referring to the Great Bear Rainforest, which Prince William endorsed under the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy initiative.
Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
On day three of their visit to Canada, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge walk through the Great Bear Rainforest with Premier of British Columbia Christy Clark in Bella Bella, Canada.
“The establishment of the canopy is a loud and unambiguous statement that the citizens of all Commonwealth countries believe that nature is fundamental to the health of our societies. When we protect our rivers, oceans, atmospheres, or like today our forests, we are telling our children that their future prosperity cannot be disconnected from the health of the natural world,” Prince William said on Monday.
British Columbia Premier Christy Clark also announced a $1 million trust that will be created to promote the unique landscape, to raise awareness about the Great Bear Rainforest, and to support ongoing research. The protected area is about the size of Ireland, and according to Clark it took about a decade to reach an agreement on managing it.
“It was a long, hard negotiation but we all recognize we have a unique responsibility to preserve this jewel for the world,” Clark told TheStar.com.
A Kermode or Spirit Bear from the Great Bear Rainforest. The Kermode is a rare subspecies of the American black bear that holds a prominent place in oral traditions of many First Nations peoples in the British Columbia area.
Slett pointed out that the Heiltsuk always have the children in mind.
“While the canopy designation recognizes the work we did around land-use planning, the interconnection between our lands and our waters cannot be understated,” she told TheStar.com. “The Heiltsuk do this work because our children’s ... futures depend on it.”
Others were not as impressed by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s visit. In a September 26 press release, Grand Chief Stewart Philip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), declined the invitation to participate in the Black Rod Ceremony held Monday evening. He was to hand the Ring of Reconciliation to Prince William and then invite him to affix the Ring onto the Black Rod, which is a ceremonial staff used on formal occasions when the monarch or the Lieutenant Governor, is present in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. The symbols affixed to the Rod are representative of the province and its relationship to the Crown.
Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge attends a Black Rod Ceremony during a reception at Government House on day three of a Royal Tour of Canada on September 27, 2016 in Victoria, Canada.
“With the deepening poverty of our communities, remembering the missing and murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the ongoing negligence of Indigenous Child Welfare policies across this country, in good conscience, I cannot participate in the Black Rod Ceremony. The suffering in our communities is too great. I apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused with our decision. We do not mean any disrespect. It is a matter of principle,” Grand Chief Philip said in the release.
Courtesy B.C. Legislature
The Black Rod used in the British Columbia Legislature got a new ring of reconciliation at a royal ceremony with Prince William on Monday, September 26. But Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs’ Grand Chief Stewart Phillip wouldn’t participate.