Reaffirming the Bond: The 2012 Royal Visit

Symbols are a vital and pervasive part of First Nations culture. Everywhere you look at the First Nations University of Canada, you will see animal, geometric and astronomical   designs and images, each representing an important concept or impression. royal visit 2_laughing_doyle_low res

One of the most important symbols in modern First Nations culture is our relationship with the British Crown. The concept of the Crown is one that embodies the entire nation of British colonial settlers. It is a bridge between the past and the future of those people who make up the country we now call Canada.

It is this timeless quality that makes our relationship to the Crown important. We did not sign our Treaties with a particular government or political party. Governments come and go; public opinion waxes and wanes. Our bond was forged with the entire British and Canadian nations, past, present and future, as embodied by the monarchy.

There are many expressions of this relationship at First Nations University. In 2005, Queen Elizabeth II presented our institution with a stone taken from Balmoral Castle.

“This stone was taken from the grounds of Balmoral Castle in the Highlands of Scotland – a place dear to my great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. It symbolises the foundation of the rights of First Nations peoples reflected in treaties signed with the Crown during her reign. Bearing the cypher of Queen Victoria as well as my own, this stone is presented to the First Nations University of Canada in the hope that it will serve as a reminder of the special relationship between the sovereign and all First Nations peoples,” she said.

Most recently, FNUniv had the opportunity to celebrate our traditional relationship through a visit by His Royal Highness Prince Charles (or Pisimwa Kamiwohkitahpamikohk as he is known in Cree) and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. 

Prince Charles and Camilla were in Canada to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. As has become a tradition for royal visits to Regina, the royal couple made a special point of making First Nations University a major part of their itinerary. We welcomed the royal couple to our school with a mix of old and new – on the one hand, performances by traditional dancers and a drum circle and, on the other hand, a performance by Aboriginal rap artist…

Prince Charles and Camilla toured booths manned by aboriginal youth entrepreneurs. Displays included a CD of Aboriginal music, original artwork and high-top sneakers beaded in a First Nations style.

Hosts who guided the royal couple on the tour stated afterwards that Prince Charles was full of knowledgeable questions on topics such as traditions of specific First Nations and the meaning of particular pieces of regalia. royal visit_students_low res

“We know from the itineraries of Prince Charles’ visits to other provinces and countries and from his many public speeches that First Nations cultures and issues appear to be a special interest to His Royal Highness. It was evident from his visit that he sincerely enjoyed the music, the dance and everything else we had to offer,” said Lynn Wells.

The visit concluded with a roundtable discussion with the royal couple on First Nations education issues. This is a topic Prince Charles has often discussed in his public speeches around the world. We were pleased and honoured to have the opportunity to expand his knowledge about our concerns. We look forward to continuing to nourish the ties between the Crown and First Nations on future royal visits.