William and Kate visit Canada's far north

5th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Prince William and his new bride Catherine met with aboriginal groups in Canada's far north on Tuesday who still refer affectionately to his ancestor Queen Victoria as "grandmother."

The indigenous Dene people greeted Britain's royal couple with dancing and singing to the beat of caribou skin drums in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories.

After the performance, honoring both aboriginal and Christian prayers, and greeting hundreds of fans in the remote territorial capital, William, the second in line to the British throne, and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, were treated to an afternoon of Arctic sports and lessons in tribal governing by consensus.

Area aboriginals signed the British Crown's first Arctic treaty 112 years ago at the height of the Klondike Gold Rush with William's great-great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. A century later, she is still affectionately referred to as "grandmother" by locals.

During this stop on the couple's nine-day tour of Canada, William showed off his hockey skills, briefly stickhandling a ball -- in lieu of a puck -- during a game of street hockey in the disputed birthplace of ice hockey.

Street hockey or "shiny" is similar to field hockey, and is a popular summer substitute for Canada's winter pastime.

The royal couple, who are both 29, also observed a mock youth parliament to learn about the territory's unique form of government combining aboriginal traditions with Westminster's parliamentary system.

There are no political parties in the Northwest Territories assembly. Rather, its 19 members meet after elections to choose a speaker, a premier and six cabinet ministers from among themselves, and govern by consensus.

Later, William and Catherine were to meet Canadian Rangers, who patrol the far reaches of Canada's Arctic, as well as aboriginal elders, and maybe go canoeing.

They were also to be taught aboriginal hand games, historically played to gamble for bullets, furs, dogs, toboggans or match sticks, and which involve using elaborate hand gestures, and the hiding and guessing of objects.

So far on their first official foreign trip as newlyweds, William and Catherine have celebrated Canada Day among hundreds of thousands of adoring fans with fireworks and musical performances, taken a cooking class in Montreal, and competed in dragon boat races in Prince Edward Island.

Their two-day visit to Quebec province on Saturday and Sunday drew protests by republicans, but the jeers and chants of "down with the monarchy" were drowned out by well-wishers' cheers.

On Monday, William successfully splashed down on a Canadian lake in a massive Sea King helicopter for an emergency water landing drill.

William, a Royal Air Force search and rescue Sea King pilot, was taking part in a "waterbird" exercise he had requested midway through the visit.

As Catherine, the former Kate Middleton, looked on nervously from the shores of Dalvay by The Sea, a popular historic hotel site, William took the controls of the military whirlybird and dove it into a small lake, then skimmed along the water like a duck before taking off vertically.

On Wednesday, trip organizers said they would make an unscheduled stop at a community on the shores of Slave Lake devastated by forest fires in May, instead of sneaking away for a romantic Rocky Mountains getaway.

As a member of the Commonwealth, Canada's official head of state is the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, who is represented by a governor general.

Afterwards the royal golden couple will travel to Calgary for a rodeo before heading for Los Angeles on July 9 on the much shorter US leg of their North American tour.

© 2011 AFP

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