Originally Posted by ghost_night554
Slave River Journal, newspaper, news, Northwest Territories, Northern, Fort Smith, Fort Chip, Fort Chipewyan, Northern Alberta, South Slave, Slave River, First Nation, Canada, oilsands, oil sands, tarsands, tar sands, Athabasca, Lake Athabasca, Abori
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During their nine day honeymoon tour of Canada few people spent more quality time with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge than Francois Paulette, a Dene elder and former chief who lives in the tiny community of Fitzgerald on the northern border.
On William: "He's real. He is a man who has genuine interest."
On Catherine: "She is what makes him tick. She is the light for him. I thought she was spiritual."
The royal couple, as a part of their sojourn to the Northwest Territories capital, visited the Dechinta "bush university" at Blachford Lake Lodge just south of Yellowknife. The setting was a pristine lake in the heart of Canada's northern wilderness.
Aftter landing on the lake in a bush plane on floats, Prince William and Catherine taxied to the shore to the site of the school and were greeted.
Meeting the Canadian Rangers
They were then taken to a meeting with the Canadian Rangers. Two Ranger representatives were on hand from each territory, along with commanding officers. The Royals were toured through a display of items the Rangers use while on the land, including clothing made from animal skins. The Duke was presented with a handmade knife by one of the Yukon representatives.
Dechinta "bush university"
The Royals were then taken to Dechinta "bush university" nearby and toured through various displays where students showed their handiwork. That included tasting dry meat that was curing in a smoke tent, looking at a moose hide being tanned the traditional way and seeing other aspects of Aboriginal culture that are being practiced and studied by the students.
The university has regular classes on Aboriginal culture, history and rights, including a visiting professor from the University of Victoria. Francois Paulette is an elder and lecturer to the students. It was his role to be the host and spokesperson to the Royal couple for some of the events.
He said the Royals were impressed with the students, who come from all over Canada, but mainly the NWT, for choosing Dechinta.
"Foremost because it was on the land, surrounded by nature, living off the land. Plus academic studies – native studies and traditional governance. They appreciated that."
The Royals finished their tour at a fire circle and Paulette spoke to them for nearly an hour.
A lesson in Dene History
"My introduction to them reminded them they were on Treaty 8 ceded lands," Paulette said.
"I told them of the history of the Dene and of the spiritual relationship with mother earth. I told them of the sacredness of protecting all life forms, and the ceremonies the Dene have honoring and being at one with Mother Earth."
He said he shared the story of Dene ancestors assisting some of the first British who had come to North America in the construction of Fort Prince of Wales on the Hudson Bay over 300 years ago.
"Their survival, the building of the fort, the creation of the fur trade and even the formation of the Hudson Bay Company were all helped and guided by the Chipewyan Dene."
He told them the story of British explorer Samuel Herne who immersed himself in Dene culture for 18 months in order to survive and was guided to the Arctic Ocean so he could 'discover" it.
"The crown needs to acknowledge this, to be thankful and to honour our people's past, he told the Royals."
Gifts were presented
The Royal couple was given gifts from the students and Paulette assisted in the presentations. These included two hand-made beaded moose-hide bags, two birch bark baskets and a beautiful star blanket - a handmade quilt from the Stanton Hospital Elders Wellness Council. Paulette observed that in the coolness of the evening, Catherine wrapped herself in the blanket to ward off the chill.
Paulette also gave them a copy of the movie "Tipping Point" about the challenges of living downstream of the oilsands, noting that William's father "Prince Charles is in there."
Following the visit with the Dechinta students Paulette took the couple on a canoe trip across the lake to an island where they ate. He said he talked to them and told them stories along the way.
"How would you like to be addressed?"
William and Catherine," the prince replied.
"Should we address you as chief?"
"No, call me Francois."
He said he told them they were in a canoe, a traditional Dene watercraft and they should visualize it as travel the same as was done 300 years ago.
Paulette, who is known as an eloquent and compelling speaker, told them about his concerns and what was important to him.
"I told them how we live in balance, a natural order. That is being threatened each day. The pollution of the air and water is changing the environment, affecting all life forms. "
"They made overtures – especially Catherine – that they recognize the spiritual connection to the land. She in her own way turns to that."
Paulette said he felt a bond was formed with the Royal couple and expects the relationship will continue.
"The visit was an historic event between the British and the Dene," stated Paulette. "They mentioned at the end they would like to come back – in the winter."