Royal waves washed Haida Gwaii today as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met Haida hereditary leaders at the Kay Centre and toured the new hospital at Queen Charlotte.
Inside, Prince William addressed the Haida matriarchs, chiefs, and others who welcomed the royal couple to the Kay Centre for a performance of traditional songs and dances as well as a tour of the Carving House and totem poles.
“Aan t’alang isis ska-wada-gee id ga dalang kil laa, haaw,” the Prince said in Haida language.
“Thank you very much for having us here.”
Prince William thanked everyone for sharing their Haida traditions, and said it was an honour to see they remain strong.
“The historic link between the Crown and the First Nations people is strong, and something that I hold dear to my heart.”
Hours before the royal couple arrived, people started lining the road north of the Haida Heritage Centre for a glimpse.
Among the first ones there were Selma and Diane York.
“I think they’re just amazing to come here to acknowledge the Haida people,” said Selma, noting that the couple met several First Nations on their week-long tour of B.C. and Yukon, which finishes tomorrow.
“It’s really nice to be acknowledged.”
Prince WIlliam and Kate arrived at the Kay after paddling a replica of the Lootaas canoe together with Haida elders and a dozen players on the Skidegate Saints basketball team.
Several of the Saints wore bright blue ‘No LNG’ T-shirts as they paddled, as did many people lining the roadside.
BC Premier Christy Clark, whose government has championed the Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal south of Prince Rupert, was uninvited from the day’s events by the Haida Nation after the liquefied natural gas project won federal approval earlier this week.
But the brightest colour on the shore at Kay Llnaagaay was orange.
The royal visit happened to fall on Orange Shirt Day, an event held every September to remember children who were sent to Indian residential schools.
Standing by a crowd of Sk’aadgaa Naay Elementary students all wearing orange T-shirts designed by local artist Billy NC Yovanovich, teacher Helen McPhee said the day started with a woman named Phyllis Jack Webstad.
An elder from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, Webstad was six when she first went to residential school in Williams Lake in 1973.
“Her mom bought her a brand new, bright orange shirt to go to school and she was really excited,” said McPhee.
“When she got there, they stripped her first thing, and gave her a school uniform.”
After touring the Kay Centre, and having a lunch of traditional and local foods made by Roberta Olsen and Chef Edi Szasz, the Duke and Duchess were whisked off to the new Haida Gwaii Hospital – Xaayda Gwaay Ngaaysdll Naay, where they met with new mothers and midwives who spoke about the experience of having children on island.
On the way to the hospital, the royal motorcade drove past Doug Alvey, who stood outside his Queen Charlotte home with a blue ensign flag flying off his salmon rod.
“I think it’s dandy,” said Alvey about the royals’ visit, adding that the real reason he flew the flag was for his father, Ted Alvey, who served with the Royal Guard outside Buckingham Palace in the 1940s.
Waiting for a quick glimpse of the Duke and Duchess at the hospital were several wonderfully hatted Haida Gwaiians.
“They dressed down for us, so we dressed up for them,” said Jackie Wilson, sporting a green fascinator with white flowers.
Wilson also hung a sign in the window of the Charlisle gift shop that says, “Before Princess Charlotte, there were Charlotte Princesses.”
After two royal waves from the hospital balcony — plus a cheeky one from a boy monkeying around soon after — the Duke and Duchess were taken to the Queen Charlotte boat launch where they stepped off onto the Highlander Ranger for a fishing trip with Skidegate youth.
Islanders got a few more waves along the shore as watched the esteemed crew fish the waters just in front of the village.
On board, Prince William and Kate caught several crab and were also lucky enough to reel in a salmon.