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Vancouver celebrates Nisga’a New Year Hobiyee

By Trevor Jang

While the red and black of Chinese New Year decorates malls throughout Vancouver, hundreds of First Nations and non-First Nations alike gathered at the PNE Forum this past weekend to celebrate the Nisga’a New Year “Hobiyee.”

“Different nations come together to join our Hobiyee celebration, which is great,” says Chester Moore, or Hay Maas, a Hereditary Chief and from the Nisga’a Nation. “It’s great unity. It creates relationships.”

Similar to many Asian traditions, the Nisga’a New Year every February is based on the lunar cycle of the moon.

“February moon is a special moon. It indicates what kind of season we’ll be having,” says Chief Hay Maas. “It’s the beginning of the harvesting season. Usually two or three weeks after Hobiyee, the Oolichan spawn up the Nass [Valley].”

Chester is referring to the home territory of the Nisga’a Nation, the Nass Valley, in Northwestern British Columbia. The Valley has four villages and is well known for its Lava Beds, left after a volcano erupted hundreds of years ago.

There is a Hobiyee celebration each year in the Nass Valley as well, but the elders decided to host a celebration in Vancouver because of how many of their people live in urban centers.

The two-day event features a full lineup of cultural dance groups. Chief Hay Maas says it’s a great way for Nisga’a people to stay connected to their culture.

“You come to know yourself when you are culturally dancing. It’s to share the spirit of our forefathers with others.”

And when the leader of a dance group shouts “Hobiyee,” everybody in the crowd shouts “Hobiyee” back. The expression is a way to celebrate unity, pride and the February moon, shaped like a spoon, which means the New Year will be plentiful for everyone!

Trevor Jang is a reporter for Roundhouse Radio in Vancouver. 

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