Walking into the PNE Forum on a rainy Saturday afternoon in East Vancouver, it was wonderful to hear the drums and songs of the Git Susit’aam’a Dancers at the 2015 Ho Biyee Nisga’a New Year annual celebrations.
The month of February marks the beginning of the Nisga’a First Nation’s New Year, and each year Hobiyee (Ho-be-yeh) the Nisga’a’ of Ts’amiks, hosts this celebration and invites dance groups from other Nations to celebrate with them the strength, beauty, and diversity of indigenous cultures. Hobiyee is a celebration of the waxing crescent moon during the latter part of winter each year. The Nisga’a’ People of the northwestern British Columbia, watch for the positioning of the moon and the stars as a prediction of the coming harvest. Hobiyee is celebrated wherever Nisga’a people live. Like many communities, they celebrate the New Year with family, friends, and community. The Nisga’a New Year is also celebrated annually in one of the four respected Nisga’a communities in the beautiful Nass Valley; this year the Gingolx will host the celebrations.
Through research, The Nisga’a Nation’s oral tradition says that, “the Simgigat – Nisga’a Chieftains – in past centuries studied the celestial heavens. They were knowledgeable in the behaviours of the stars in proximity to the moon, which forecasted the weather patterns. They studied astrology, not from textbooks, but by years of observing the heavens.”
The Halayt-Simgigat (spiritual leader) studied the Buxw-laks moon, the moon of February, and they made note of the different shapes leading up to the full moon. Over time, they observed that whenever the first crescent moon (thin shaped) is in the shape of the hoobix (the bowl of the Nisga’a wooden spoon with the ends pointing upward) this meant abundant resources in the harvesting seasons to follow in K’alii-Aksims (the Nass Valley). The oolichans would be plentiful, as would the salmon, berries and various other resources important to the Nisga’a. All in all, 2015 is predicted to be bountiful.
During the two-day celebrations at the PNE Forum, nine Nisga’a dance groups performed their traditional celebration songs to large appreciative crowds. It was my first Hobiyee that I attended, and for it’s beautiful songs, drums, and awesome dancers, everyone should mark this wonderful event on their calendar each February!