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Chief Kind Heart’s daughter returns

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Retracing steps: Nancy Nightingale has returned to the island as part of the cultural exchange programme (Photograph supplied)

The Canadian-born daughter of a Native American chief found and married her husband in Bermuda in 1964 and since her father was the first chief to visit the island the wedding made the front page of The Royal Gazette.

Now Nancy Nightingale (née Baker) is back on the island for the first time in 52 years as part of the cultural exchange programme Friendship Force International.

Chief Khot la cha — or Chief Kind Heart — part of the 1,000-member Squamish tribe in North Vancouver, visited the island to give his daughter’s hand away to navy man Gerald McDonald at St James Church, Somerset on May 12, 1964.

Ms Nightingale was 19 when she travelled by herself across Canada to New York to take a flight to Bermuda and visit her girlfriends.

“I loved it so much I stayed and got a job as a secretary to a construction company,” she said.

She ended up staying for two years, during which time she met her future husband, Mr McDonald, who was serving in the Navy. They began planning their wedding, which included the invitation of a rather special guest — her father Chief Khot la cha.

“My parents came to the wedding and my father was the first Native American chief to visit Bermuda, so we ended up on the front page of the newspaper.

It was the first time he had travelled, but after that he loved it so much he was appointed Ambassador for the Native People of Canada through Air Canada. Thanks to Air Canada ,he travelled the world — Europe, New Zealand and Hawaii — promoting our native culture.

“My husband served in the Navy and spent two tours going to war in Vietnam. He has now passed away. I have two wonderful daughters and I am also blessed with four grandchildren. I now live in North Vancouver where I grew up and also have been promoting our native culture through my Khot-la-cha Art Gallery, where I sell the artwork of our Squamish Nation.”

In an interview with The Royal Gazette under the headline “Indian Chief paying visit Here; Daughter’s Wedding”, Chief Khot la cha, born Simon Baker, spoke of a push in the US towards preserving rights for the rights and culture of Native Americans.

He said at the time: “At the moment we are fighting the Canadian Government for the confiscation of our land. British Columbia used to belong to us until we were exploited by the French and the British. My grandfather Chief Capilano, petitioned King Edward for full fishing, hunting, educational and land rights.”

He also spoke of the history of some of the North Western tribes telling this newspaper: “We have never had wars the way the prairie Indians did with Custer. But the Northern tribes used to raid us and carry off our women and take our men for slaves. And by the way, it was the English who started the idea of scalping, by offering £200 for the head of an enemy during the French and Indian wars.”

During her visit, Ms Nightingale has been taking in Bermuda’s cultural delights — she attended the Remembrance Day Parade on Friday and will take part in historic walking tours around the island. She also revisited St James Church.

Revisiting history: Nancy Nightingale at St James Church, where she was married 52 years ago (Photograph supplied)