Jean Oakes, a Nekaneet Elder, will never forget the two occasions when she shook the Queen’s hand.
The first time was in the fall of 1987, during a Wanuskewin Heritage Park ceremony in which the Queen designated it a National Historic Site on behalf of the Government of Canada.
On October 7, 2013, Jean met the Queen again, this time in London. She was part of a delegation of about two dozen chiefs, veterans, elders and aides from the Federation of Saskatchewan First Nations (FSIN) who travelled to London to mark the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763.
During the four-day trip, the FSIN delegation took part in a public dialogue at Oxford University about the struggle for treaty and Aboriginal rights in Canada, a wreath-laying ceremony at the Royal Military Chapel to honour First Nations veterans’ loyalty to the Crown, and the anniversary of the Royal Proclamation itself. FSIN leaders hoped that the journey represented an opportunity to reinforce the treaty relationship between themselves and the Canadian and British Crown and to highlight the continuing existence and importance of the Royal Proclamation.
“My mother was very sad when she heard the news about the Queen,” said Colin Oakes, a manager of operations at Correctional Service of Canada.
The Oakes family’s royal connections go even further, added Colin. In 2001, Elder Gordon Oakes, a former Nekaneet Chief, met Prince Charles – now King Charles III – during a Cree naming ceremony at Wanuskewin Heritage Park. A photograph was taken of Oakes and FSIN Chief Perry Bellegarde placing a blanket over the future king’s shoulders.
Charles’s Cree name is Kisikawpisim Kamiyowahpahmikoot (“The sun watches over him in a good way”). It came to Oakes during a sweatlodge ceremony and after many prayers; the name is said to come from prayer, it isn’t given from the mind.
“I had a lot I wanted to say to him (Prince Charles),” Oakes said at the time. “It was a great honour to give him this name and it will be a day to remember.”
Oakes said that 125 years earlier Queen Victoria had sent her officials to western Canada to negotiate for the land and sign treating with the First Nations’ bands living on the prairies.
Charles spent several days in Saskatchewan before travelling to Yukon.
• The Queen, who died peacefully at Balmoral on Thursday, visited Saskatchewan five times during her reign. She even visited once before her coronation, at the age of 25. That was in October, 1951, just months before the death of her father, King George VI, which saw her ascend to the throne. The Queen celebrated her Platinum Jubilee earlier this year, marking the 70th anniversary of her accession.