Saskatchewan residents look back on crossing paths with Prince Philip

·4 min read
A display honouring the late Prince Philip is featured at the Saskatchewan Legislature in Regina. (Adam Hunter/CBC - image credit)
A display honouring the late Prince Philip is featured at the Saskatchewan Legislature in Regina. (Adam Hunter/CBC - image credit)

It might have been 44 years ago, but Lorna Standingready has vivid memories of the day she met Prince Philip.

Standingready was a neighbour and friend to then-Premier Allan Blakeney and his wife Anne. Their daughters would play as they visited.

One day, Standingready said she received a call from the Premier's Office asking if she'd like to attend a dinner with the Premier and Prince Philip at the Centre of the Arts.

She agreed and soon after received a letter from the Protocol Office detailing what she was to wear for the occasion: a long gown, low heeled shoes, long gloves, and jewellery.

As a low-income, single mother of six kids, she couldn't afford such luxuries.

"So I went in my moccasins, my buckskin dress, my rabbit fur and my beads," Standingready said. "And I felt so strengthened and I felt that I could be who I was in another society."

She also recalled that the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians were boycotting the event because of Treaty Rights. But she said she attended because of respect for the royal family.

"I went anyway because of my my teachings from my kookum and my mushum and my parents, that I should always respect royalty because of our forefathers made a treaty with them. And no matter what happens, if things don't go good to have that respect, because it will only make you stronger."

At the dinner, Standingready was introduced to Prince Philip by the Premier. As she had practiced, she bowed her head and curtsied.

The Prince told her that she had on a lovely outfit, and asked her where she was from.

"I told him I was originally from the Peepeekisis Indian Reserve, but that I now came from White Bear Indian Reserve."

Kokum standing where her family home once stood on Peepeekisis First Nation in southern Saskatchewan, holding sage.
Kokum standing where her family home once stood on Peepeekisis First Nation in southern Saskatchewan, holding sage.(Kaitlyn Swan)

She also told the prince that she was a single parent to six kids, and he said that that was wonderful and that he was glad to meet her.

When she got home, she said she sat on the couch and her kids gathered around her, asking questions about what the prince looked like and how he acted.

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Queen Elizabeth, died on April 9 at 99. His funderal will be on April 17. Standingready said she sends her heartfelt condolences to the queen, also knowing what it's like to lose a husband and be the matriarch of a large family.

Having a hoot with the Prince

Back in 1987, Dale Hjertaas initiated a prairie stewardship program in Saskatchewan called Operation Burrowing Owl for what is now the Ministry of Environment.

Prince Philip was in the province celebrating the 100 year anniversary of wildlife conservation with the Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area. The World Wildlife Fund arranged that the prince would speak at the opening of Operation Burrowing Owl in Kronau, Sask.

"I can't say enough positive about what Prince Philip contributed to the success of that program," Hjertaas said in an interview with CBC's Saskatoon Morning.

"A week later, everybody knew that the burrowing owl was in trouble. I think we enrolled somewhere about 400 farm families and a lot of their landowners into the program that summer following [the visit]," he said.

Dale Hjertaas met Prince Philip at the opening of Operation Burrowing Owl in 1987.
Dale Hjertaas met Prince Philip at the opening of Operation Burrowing Owl in 1987. (Tammy Thomas/Nature Saskatchewan)

Hjertaas also recalled how the prince narrowly missed being defecated on by a baby bird at the opening event.

The organizers opened an owl nest box and took chicks out to show people, and someone asked if the prince wanted to hold one. He politely declined. According to Hjertaas, baby birds, when you disturb them, usually defecate. So when the chick was handed to someone else, it did just that.

"And then Prince Philip said 'Now, I'll take it'! So he was familiar enough with birds to know what was about to happen," said Hjertaas.

Hjertaas is grateful that the prince lent his name to the burrowing owl cause.

"His contribution, plus his concerns for the owls, I'm sure influenced people to be part of this program."