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Chief Dean Nelson says Prince Harry was 'sincere' and 'down-to-Earth' during visit to Lil’wat Nation

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are in B.C. to mark one year to the Invictus Games.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visited the traditional territory of Lil’wat Nation this week as part of their trip to British Columbia, and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex spent time meeting with members of the Nation in Mount Currie on Feb. 15. Prince Harry previously met with Lil'wat Nation Chief Dean Nelson in November 2023, and was invited to visit the Lil’wat and speak with Chief Gélpcal (the cultural chief) and other councillors.

Harry took part in a wheelchair basketball game with local youth during his visit, with Nelson even joining in on the court. Nelson told Pique the visit was positive and sincere.

“He dropped by the community,” he said. “We had a lot of fun with the youth and our leadership.”

Nelson said he also had a chance to chat with the Royal about positive steps towards truth and reconciliation.

“We did have a chance to chat about that stuff. That was the reason he was there," Nelson said. "Our initial visit was a few months ago when he first came round. He has been very sincere and down-to-Earth. He was inquiring about how things are.”

Nelson said they also discussed the problems the Lil’wat are still facing since the creation of Indian Act.

“It’s still grassroots stuff,” he said. “He was concerned about the long-term. He asked what was still affecting us. I said the Indian Act and reservation are still here. That needs to be taken into consideration.”

Prince Harry will likely visit the Lil’wat Nation again in the future. 

“We will have a conversation,” said Nelson. “He has shown an interest and has made a few excursions.”

The pair agreed to disagree when it came to the score of the basketball game.

“We called it a draw,” said Nelson. “I didn’t realize my team was cheating as we had six players and they had five. The Prince was on the red team and I was on the blue.”

Chief Nelson will join the Royals again at a banquet in Vancouver on Feb. 16 as part of the Invictus Games one-year-out celebrations.

During their visit, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex received a traditional welcome and were presented symbolic gifts for their family. These gifts included a traditional basket and a hand-carved cedar art piece symbolizing strength. In a statement on their website, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex said visiting Lil’wat Nation was an honour.

“The couple were humbled to be invited and extend their deepest gratitude to Chief Nelson, Chief Gélpcal and the people of the Lil’wat Nation for their generous hospitality and kindness,” they wrote.

Lenny Martin Andrew is the son of former Lil’wat Nation Chief, Leonard Andrew. He said today’s visit made waves within the community.  

“The Prince showing up for me is a statement. It got everyone's attention,” he said. “He also went to our culture centre in Whistler yesterday.”

Andrew felt the Royal showed respect to the Nation and its people.

“When we go into other peoples' territory, we show respect,” he said. “He followed protocol.”