Moose-hide tanning was on the agenda and caribou on the menu as royal newlyweds Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, visited aboriginal territory from July 4–6 during their first international trip as a married couple.
With international and domestic media descending on Yellowknife, the eyes of the world were on aboriginal culture, if for just a few hours. During that time William and Kate met with elders, learned about efforts to preserve aboriginal life and language at the Dechinta Centre, and listened to harrowing accounts of the wildfires that devastated the 7,000-person town of Slave Lake last month.
Aboriginal leaders, the premier of Yukon and a crowd of thousands welcomed the royal couple, according to the National Post. Drummers from Dettah, a Dene First Nation settlement just outside Yellowknife, honored them with a performance and chant led by Bobby Drygeese, according to the Mirror and Postmedia News. Afterward the two observed Inuit athletic events, a youth parliament and met with mostly aboriginal Canadian Rangers at Blachford Lodge at the Dechinta Centre, a so-called bush university, where they learned about moose-hide tanning and fish-drying and also spoke with Weledeh Dene elders and youth, Postmedia News said.
After their day in Yellowknife, an elder guided them by canoe to uninhabited Eagle Island on Blachford Lake, where they dined, according to the Guardian, on a specially prepared meal of local cranberries, Bannock bread, caribou and white fish.
The couple’s last-minute decision to tour fire-ravaged Slave Lake (after first determining that a stopover wouldn’t hamper cleanup) was seen as an extra sign of respect by an already-admiring public.
“An argument could be made that aboriginals have more reason to resent the British Crown than the Quebecois,” the northwestern newspaper The Chronicle Herald opined in an editorial. “Instead, the people of Canada’s Far North were consistently gracious in expressing respect for William’s ancestors and continued faith in the treaties that were signed. Wednesday’s brief, unscheduled stopover in Slave Lake, to support the Alberta town still stunned by massive wildfire losses, puts an exclamation point on the fact this couple does royal differently.”