The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge embrace Haida language and culture

By Rhonda Lee McIsaac

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge witness ceremony at Gina Guu Aahljuu Naay.

The Haida Nation anthem was sung by a room full of Haida Matriarchs, community members, and invited guests who were assembled at 9 am inside Gina Guu Aahljuu Naay (Performing House) at Kay Llnagaay. Energy was high as Iihljuwaas (Bill Reid) banners were rehung and the final touches of cedar and ribbons were put into place. Seats filled, the excitement built and the house finally settled in anticipation of the Royal couple’s entrance.

The hereditary leaders of the Haida Nation join the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in witnessing ceremony.

Following the official welcome from Gaahlaay the Nation’s guests witnessed dances and songs. In a touching honour to the next generation, the Men’s Warrior Song and dance was dedicated to Prince George while the Women’s Dance was to honour Princess Charlotte. Young Kwiigaay Hazel Alsop danced her way into the heart of the smiling Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Guuda Xuula dances in honour of the young Prince George.
Princess Kwiigaay dances in honour of the young Princess Charlotte.
President of the Haida Nation kil tlaats ‘gaa (Peter Lantin) welcomes the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with a speech.

The president of the Haida Nation kil tlaats ‘gaa Peter Lantin officially greeted and welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to these shining Islands. Following his words, he invited the Duke of Cambridge to speak.

The Duke of Cambridge addressed the “women of High Esteem, hereditary leaders, and friends” from the wooden podium built by Charles Gladstone, decorated with cedar branches, salal branches, rose hips and ribbon.

The Duke of Cambridge smiles after addressing his audience in Haida language.

The room was quiet again as he began his address. To everyone’s delight the Duke of Cambridge greeted his hosts in Haida language, and his silent audience broke into appreciative applause and enthusiastic cheers.

“Thank you very much for welcoming us into your longhouse and for sharing your traditions with us. The historic link between the Crown and the First Nations people is strong and something I hold dear to my heart and so it is an honour for me to be here with you to see that your traditions remain strong. We are very much looking forward to spending today with you. Thank you,” he said.

Following the ceremony in the Performance House, the couple entered the carving shed where artist Guujaaw spoke to the figures on the Bill Reid Pole. Haana Jaad Alix Goetzinger then picked up the story and gave the Royal couple a tour of the six poles standing facing the sea at Kay Llnagaay.

Before departing the Heritage Centre Aria Pryce and Royce Yarowshuk along with Gwaliga and Joan Hart presented gifts from the Nation; a t’aaGuu (copper) made by Gwaliga. Naanang Nina said a prayer of safety for the couple and they were sung into their idling motorcade.

They were then whisked off to the Haida Gwaii Hospital. Their day wrapped up with a fishing trip with youth before being zipped off via helicopter to Sandspit and by jet to Victoria.

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