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Rapturous welcome for Kate and William in Great Bear Rainforest

Gifts galore for Kate and Wills during Canada trip

By Tony Jones

Published 28/09/2016

The Duchess of Cambridge arrives to tour the University of British Columbia’s campus in Kelowna
The Duchess of Cambridge arrives to tour the University of British Columbia’s campus in Kelowna

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have forged links with a remote Canadian community and left with their arms filled with presents, including a pair of dancing vests.

In the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest, William and Kate were welcomed by the Heiltsuk First Nation people and in turn the Duke praised them for helping to safeguard the natural wonder in British Columbia dubbed the "Amazon of the north".

Torrential downpours had forced the royal couple to abandon a seaplane tour of the forest, but they received a rapturous welcome from the Heiltsuk residents of the island village of Bella Bella during a ceremony staged in the "big house" or community centre.

William and Kate were visiting to mark Great Bear - the world's largest intact temperate rainforest - joining the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy network, a scheme to help preserve areas of indigenous forest in perpetuity in the Queen's name.

In a speech, the Duke said: "The Commonwealth has, at its heart, always been about the values that bind its people. This project, focusing on our shared natural heritage, is no different.

"The establishment of the Canopy is a loud and unambiguous statement that the citizens of all Commonwealth countries believe that nature is fundamental to the health of our societies.

"When we protect our rivers, oceans, atmospheres, or our forests, we are telling our children that their future prosperity cannot be disconnected from the health of the natural world."

During William and Kate's welcoming ceremony, traditional cloaks were draped over their shoulders and they later donned the dancing vests - symbols of a new relationship between the British monarchy and the small Heiltsuk community.

Dancing vests are worn during a major welcoming ceremony called potlatch. Kate wore a white one and William a black garment.

Their children, who have joined the Cambridges on their eight-day tour of Canada, also received tiny vests along with a drum for Prince George and a doll for Princess Charlotte.

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