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A Brief History of Royals in the NWT

Next month will NOT mark the first time the NWT has hosted the British Royals!


As was recently announced, Prince Charles of Wales and Duchess Camilla of Cornwall will be coming to the Northwest Territories in May. The trip is part of celebrations of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, though more details about the nature of their trip have yet to be released.


While this is a noteworthy event for the North, it is not the first time that members of the British Royal Family have come to the Territories on their various globetrotting philanthropies. In fact, Queen Elizabeth herself has visited various NWT communities on two separate visits in the past.


In 1970, the Queen was passing through as part of a 10-day visit to Canada to celebrate the Centennial of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories into Canada. She was joined by her husband, Prince Philip, and her children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and the future head of state, Jean Chretien also joined her at a stop in an old church in Iqaluit for a Sunday service. A husky had wandered in at one point, and received several pets from the Queen and Philip.

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From there, the family made their way to Resolute, where the Queen mingled with the people for about an hour before continuing on her way. The family stopped in Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk, Yellowknife, Fort Smith, and finally, Fort Providence. Throughout much of their stay in Fort Providence, the family had to deal with the nuisance of insects, as due to various factors of the legality and costs of certain insecticides, the community had not sprayed for bugs. Photos had made their way back to Great Britain which showed the Queen and her daughter swatting away mosquitoes and black flies.


The Queen’s next visit came in 1994. This time, she stopped in Yellowknife, Rankin Inlet, and Iqaluit, though this trip didn’t go as smoothly. Touching down in the Northwest Territories capital, she was greeted with threatening graffiti painted on two of the city’s highways, and a number of bomb scares, though the RCMP were able to determine that none of the bomb threats were legitimate.


The Queen also faced some pushback from certain First Nations groups. Dene Nation leader Bill Erasmus told the Queen—the living embodiment of the Crown—that their relationship with the Crown was “tarnished and sullied” because the treaties signed by previous monarchs nearly 100 years ago had not been honoured. The Gwich’in Tribal Council also took a stance against the Queen. They boycotted her visit entirely, due to England’s protests against the fur industry.


But it wasn’t all death threats and politics. The Queen dedicated the NWT’s new legislative assembly building and was greeted joyously by nearly the entire population of Rankin Inlet. She celebrated the upcoming creation of Nunavut, and enjoyed music and culture from Inuit and Dene performers.


As she was preparing to leave, she acknowledged the controversies she faced during this trip, citing the cultural, linguistic, and geographical differences held by the various First Nations. She expressed a desire for the First Nations to proudly hold on to these differences, but to never allow them to become a cause for intolerance.


It has been nearly 30 years since a member of the Royal Family has visited the Northwest Territories. More details on the visit from Charles and Camilla are expected to become available in the coming weeks.

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