The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall took part in a “Feeding the Fire Ceremony” as they were welcomed to a remote Canadian outpost on the final day of their tour.
Their visit to the Northwest Territories came after the prince faced calls for the Queen to apologize for the “assimilation and genocide” of Canada’s indigenous residential schoolchildren.
As drums were played Charles and Camilla watched as offerings of tobacco were thrown into a fire pit after they joined leaders and elders from the area in the settlement of Dettah, a thriving First Nations community of a few hundred.
Leaders of First Nations people, a term used to describe Canada’s indigenous communities, had asked Charles about the apology during a Governor General reception on Wednesday.
The prince did not make an admission on behalf of the monarch but instead “acknowledged” the nation’s dark past, First Nations leaders said after meeting the future king.
When the apology happens that again will just be one step on the road to healing for First Nations
RoseAnne Archibald, National Chief of the Assembly of the First Nations, said she did not receive an apology but the future king “acknowledged” failures by Canadian governments in handling the relationship between the Crown and indigenous people which “really meant something”.
She added: “It’s not enough, it’s a first step, we have yet to hear an apology, when the apology happens that again will just be one step on the road to healing for First Nations.”
The couple met a succession of local leaders including two Chiefs for the Yellowknives Dene First Nation – Chief Edward Sangris and Chief Fred Sangris – alongside the Premier of the Northwest Territories, Caroline Cochrane, in Detrah.
Elder Bernadette Martin conducted the ceremony which began with an opening prayer followed by a prayer to the spirits and later Charles sat down with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation leadership.
In a speech during the first day of his tour, Charles pledged to listen and learn from Canadians embarking on a process of reconciliation to “come to terms with the darker and more difficult aspects of the past”.
Canada is dealing with a national scandal stretching back decades that saw thousands of indigenous children die or be abused in the residential school system, with hundreds of human remains discovered last year at former church-run schools.
Before the meeting with the community leaders began Charles and Camilla toured a stall showcasing traditional crafts made from beaver, caribou and moose.
The couple were each presented with a pair moccasins made from moose and Charles said “thank you to the moose”.
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