William and Kate visit Canada's far north

5th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

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

Under drizzle and overcast skies in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, the indigenous Dene people prepared to greet Britain's royal couple with dancing and singing to the beat of caribou skin drums.

After the performance, honoring both aboriginal and Christian prayers, William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, were to be treated to an afternoon of Arctic sports and lessons in tribal governing by consensus.

Area aboriginals signed the British monarchy'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.

William and Catherine were to meet Canadian Rangers, who patrol the far reaches of Canada's Arctic, as well as aboriginal elders, and observe aboriginal games described as "tests of strength, agility and endurance," key to living off the land in this harsh environment.

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

They will also have an opportunity to stickhandle a ball (in lieu of a puck), during a game of street hockey in the birthplace of ice hockey.

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

The political highlight of the stopover will be an opportunity to see in action the territory's unique form of government, which combines 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.

They royals will see how it works during a mock youth parliament.

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 nine-day visit.

As Catherine 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.

Thereafter, the royal golden couple, both 29, will travel to Calgary for a rodeo before heading for Los Angeles on July 9 for the much shorter US leg of their North American tour.

© 2011 AFP

0 Comments To This Article