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27/09/2016

Kate pairs a £400 Holland & Holland shooting jacket with her well-worn hunting boots as she and Wills meet First Nation people and are taken into Canada's Great Bear Rainforest

Strolling side by side, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge explored the natural beauty of Canada's Great Bear Rainforest on day three of their royal tour.

After battling wind and rain early in the day, the royal couple enjoyed some dry weather for the walk through a wooded glade in the rainforest, which stretches some 250miles along the coastline of British Columbia.

Kate, 34, dressed down for yesterday's engagements in Zara jeans and what looked to be her trusted pair of Penelope Chilvers boots. She stayed warm and dry in a Holland & Holland safari jacket, believed to cost £400.

Earlier the couple were greeted warmly by the indigenous Heiltsuk people as they arrived on the remote island community of Bella Bella.

In a joyous ceremony, the royals were welcomed as 'hemas', a hereditary chief, and ‘umaks’, a woman of high rank or standing as they received a number of gifts from the First Nation hosts.

William and Kate were shown one of the most precious items owned by the community, a royal staff with a silver crown head given to the present chief’s great-grandfather by Queen Victoria.

It was awarded to the Heiltsuk people as a sign of honour with, as folklore has it, a message saying: 'This is a mark of respect. If your people need anything then you must ask my government.'

In a ceremony that went on for an hour longer than planned, the couple were treated to traditional dancing by groups of brightly-evening dresses young children who clearly entranced the smiling duchess.

They also watched while a large group of women, revered in the Heiltsuk community as 'life givers', danced what was known as 'A ladies' welcome' to the sound of drums and chanting.

Then it was time for the gift giving.

Chief Marilyn Slett told them: 'On behalf our nation we welcome you and we thank you for being here as part of the healing that we are undertaking. As part of our....feasting system we would like to give our guests a gift.'

First the blankets and then the 'dancing vests' - worn by men, women and children during traditional celebrations - were placed over the couple' shoulders.

'We use these blankets to wrap the spirits of our ancestors around you and to unite your spirits together with ours,' they were told.

'In our way our blankets encompass the sprites of our ancestors, our history and our culture, our stories of who we are and where we come from.'

The blankets were printed with the outline of a grizzly bear, trees to represent the forest that surrounds the Heiltsuk community and local flora and fauna.

'The design represents all life, not just animals but us as humans. There is no hierarchy in the importance of life, we are all dependent on one another,' Chief Slett said.

They were then handed miniature dancing vests for their children - one in white for Charlotte and another in black for George, and examined them delightedly.

William and Kate were also given a traditional doll by a woman carrying a baby for Charlotte.

William could be seen jokingly pretending to take the little child instead, which he then clucked affectionately under the chin.

They were also given a painted drum for George and urged them to bring him back to the community to learn 'how to free the spirits of the drum'.

The couple also sat listening to several speeches from senior members of the Heiltsuk community about the battle to protect and nurture their traditional lands.

'We face many threats to our way of life and the work of our ancestors. Wide ranging energy projects, super tankers in our pristine waters....are all things we fight today,' said Chief Slett.

She also praised William's late mother, Princess Diana, as a 'humanitarian and a world advocate'.

'She remains in our hearts,' she said, as Kate clapped.

Speaking earlier one of the elders of the community, Edwin Newman, said he was keen to use the visit to impress on William and Kate the history of his people and 'how we connect with the land and connect with the ocean'.

He said: 'We farm the ocean, that is our living. We do have rights. All these restrictions that they are putting in place are an infringement on our rights. This is not just about bears, it is about the people here.

'As long as the sun rises, as long as the trees grow, this land is under our stewardship and we will continue to protect it. It is under our stewardship.'

He said that Queen Victoria's staff, so proudly kept by the Heiltsuk people, represented her acknowledgement of their people's sovereignty.

And Prince George and Princess Charlotte were not forgotten, with presents of a small black dancing vest and doll for the little royals, who had stayed back in Victoria, the family base, with their nanny.

The couple were urged to return with their three-year-old son so that he could be taught 'how to release the spirit of the drum'.

They later enjoyed a short stroll through a wooded glade in the Great Bear Forest, as they made their way to plaque unveiling ceremony that formally marked the natural wonder becoming part of the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy network.

Stretching over 250 miles along the central and north coast of British Columbia, the Great Bear Rainforest is the planet's largest intact temperate rainforest.

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