Native tradition and politics mix as William and Kate paddle to Haida Gwaii by war canoe

HAIDA GWAII, B.C. — Prince William and Kate arrived at a small village off the coast of B.C. on Friday in a replica 15-metre Haida war canoe, taken to the island by paddlers wearing T-shirts opposing liquefied natural gas development.

The Duke and of Cambridge were welcomed to hall by more than a dozen chiefs and elders.

Young dancers in brightly coloured and beaded costumes performed a dance to the of Canada’s residential schools and their personal journeys.

They also did a dance that highlighted the many animals that provide spiritual, cultural and life-sustaining sustenance to the Haida. One dancer wore a full bear costume and rose up and roared like a bear during the dance.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Chris /Getty ImagesPrince William Duke of Cambridge helps row a traditional war canoe in Haida Gwaii, B.C., on Sept. 30, 2016.

“We are survivors,” Haida Nation spokesman Peter Lantin told William and Kate. “We owe our existence to these islands and these waters. We know that good will come from your visit to Haida Gwaii because you bring hope.”

Inside the hall, William spoke in the Haida language and remarked on the long relationship between the Crown and the Haida.

“Thank you very much for having us here,” he said.

“It is an honour for me to be here with you to see your traditions remain strong.”

Seven paddlers who helped take the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to the Haida Gwaii village of Skidegate wore teal-coloured T-shirts with the words No LNG on them. Some of the dancers who performed wore anti-oil development shirts under their costumes, reading: No pipelines. No tankers. No problem.

Arthur Edwards - Pool/Getty Images
– Pool/Getty ImagesPrince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge visit the island of Haida Gwaii on Sept. 30, 2016.

The government gave conditional approval earlier this week to a controversial LNG project that would be built near Prince Rupert, just across the Hecate Strait from the islands on the northern B.C. mainland.

There have been two other occasions on the eight-day tour, which ends Saturday in Victoria, when aboriginal leaders have sent a political message to the Crown. At separate events earlier in the week leaders called on the Crown to advocate with the federal and provincial governments for reconciliation with Aboriginal Peoples.

First Nations art and a coastal trip were also on the itinerary for the duke and duchess on their final full day in Canada at the remote West Coast archipelago of Haida Gwaii.

The duke and duchess visited the Haida Heritage Centre and Museum to learn about the tradition of carving totems as well as other cultural practices.

Arthur Edwards - Pool / Getty Images
Edwards – Pool / Getty ImagesPrince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge visit the island of Haida Gwaii during the Royal Tour of Canada on Sept. 30, 2016.

They also toured the region’s new hospital and health care centre, located at the Village of Queen Charlotte. The new facility ensures long-term care and maternity patients can stay within the remote community while receiving health services that previously were only offered in larger cities.

William and Kate capped off their day in the coastal islands with a fishing trip on board the Highland Ranger, an open deck, aluminum vessel. The area is renowned for offering some of the best salmon and halibut fishing in the world and it didn’t disappoint as the royal couple reeled in a salmon.

The islands, located about 100 kilometres off the coast, were known as the Queen Charlotte Islands until 2009 when the province and the Haida Nation reached a historic reconciliation agreement. As a result the island chain went back to its original name.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Chris Jackson/Getty ImagesCatherine, Duchess of Cambridge holds a fish as Prince William, Duke of Cambridge on Sept. 30, 2016.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Chris Jackson/Getty ImagesCatherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge head out on a fishing trip with Skidegate youth centre children on Sept. 30, 2016.

About Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press