As part of its plans to commemorate King Charles’s coronation, Ottawa is allocating $250,000 to chronicle the monarch’s links with Indigenous people and his travels in Canada, including a perilous dive beneath the Arctic ice when he was 26 years old.
The federal Heritage Department has given the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, which King Charles visited last year in Ottawa, funds for a package of educational materials about his ties with the country. It includes a bilingual “story map” of the King’s visits to Canada, dating back to his first official tour in 1970 as Prince of Wales.
At celebratory events planned in Ottawa for the coronation weekend (May 6 and 7), the society is also to distribute a special edition of Canadian Geographic about the King. It will feature an article by undersea explorer Joe MacInnis, who led the monarch on a dive beneath two-metre thick ice in the Far North in 1975.
During that visit to Canada, King Charles also put on a hard hat and headed 3,100 feet underground in a gold mine near Yellowknife.
The Heritage Department is planning a number of party-style events to mark the coronation, which takes place on May 6. As well, Susannah Goshko, British High Commissioner, is holding a garden party at her Ottawa residence.
“The coronation of King Charles III is more than an occasion for pageantry and celebration, it is a unique opportunity to enhance Canadians’ knowledge and understanding of the Crown in Canada and our system of parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy,” said John Geiger, chief executive officer of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.
The educational materials the society is producing are to be made available to Canadian schools. They have been developed with Chief Perry Bellegarde, honorary president of the society and former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. He has focused on the King’s links to First Nations.
Mr. Bellegarde has met King Charles several times in Canada and has also visited him at Buckingham Palace and Clarence House to discuss sustainable development and Indigenous issues.
They first met at an Indigenous ceremony in 2001 near Saskatoon, where Charles was given an Indigenous name in a ceremony at Wanuskewin Heritage Park. Gordon Oakes, elder and past chief of the Nekaneet First Nation, gave him the Cree name Kīsikāwipīsimwa miyo ōhcikanawāpamik, or The Sun Watches Over Him in a Good Way.
“We had a blanketing ceremony for him and a naming ceremony as part of that,” Mr. Bellegarde said.
Charles had spent a whole day with Saskatchewan’s Indigenous communities, he added, and gone on a “walkabout” with an Indigenous elder to learn about the healing properties of plants and their use in traditional medicine. “Just two of them went walking down the path at Wanuskewin and they were just exchanging stories and teachings and ideas about the medicinal plants along the way.”
King Charles is well known for his interest in plants; in 1986 he revealed he talks to his to make them grow.
Mr. Bellegarde said Indigenous people in Canada have a special relationship with the Crown through treaties, “done through ceremony, so you cannot break that.”
The process for creating treaties was formally established by King George III’s 1763 Royal Proclamation, which set up protocols for purchasing large tracts of First Nations land. The treaties transferred Indigenous title to the Crown in exchange for reserve lands and other benefits.
“It’s very important that we acknowledge the relationship with the Crown and we do that through ceremony on Treaty Day in the Prairies,” Mr. Bellegarde said.
Last year, in the final event of his Canadian tour, Charles dedicated a Platinum Jubilee Garden near Yellowknife, and spoke about the suffering of Indigenous people in Canada.
“We must listen to the truth of the lived experience of Indigenous peoples. We must work to understand their pain and suffering,” he said at the time.
Among the Canadian guests at Westminster Abbey for the coronation will be Mary Simon, Canada’s first Indigenous Governor-General.
Mounties, riding horses the RCMP gifted to the Royal Family, and members of the Canadian Armed Forces are to accompany the King as part of the official procession to Buckingham Palace from Westminster Abbey after the ceremony.