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Hobiyee 2019: Snow Storms and Seagulls Outside, Signings and Singing Inside

​​Over 1,000 people attend Nisga'a new year in the village of Gingolx

It's mid-February, and the highway to the village of Gingolx is closed due to a snow storm. Any other weekend this would be a minor inconvenience, but this weekend it's a serious issue, as thousands of people are making their way to Hobiyee. A call to highway maintenance ensures the crew will "step it up," according to admin organizer Michele Stevens, and they do, ensuring that everyone can get to Gingolx.

The three-day event's busiest day was Friday, with 800-1,000 people at the Gingolx Memorial Recreation Centre, but Saturday was a close second with almost 800 visitors and locals in attendance. Hobiyee, an annual event marking the Nisga'a new year in February, is growing every year and the venue moves to each of the four Nisga'a villages in turn. Dancing, singing, drumming, eating and visiting with friends and relatives are central to Hobiyee. In addition, this year an Elder and community member gave village tours to a few key spots.

February's waxing crescent moon, if pointing up, foretells an abundant fish harvest. This year, no oolichan had been seen until a ripple of excitement ran through the crowd on Friday and the emcee announced that seagulls were squawking loudly outside, a sure sign the fish were running. Sea lions and other wildlife were indulging, too.

Inside the hall, volunteers and staff also prepared a feast. Crab, clams and Nisga'a stew kept the nine dance troupes energized as well as the audience. Laxgalts'ap dancers performed to old and new music, and traditional songs echoed in the hall. Stevens said her favourite part is hearing the music from all the villages in one location. Five groups from outside Nisga'a also performed and were billeted locally. Among visitors who did not have family to stay with, some decided to make day trips into Gingolx, while others lodged at one of two local B&Bs or the 16-room lodge.

Almost 40 dignitaries and visitors from Tahltan and their Nisga'a counterparts recommitted to a Nation-to-Nation Alliance during a signing ceremony. In 1898, Chiefs from both Nations met at Treaty Rock to make peace. In 1977 that peace was re-affirmed; boundaries were agreed upon in 1993; and in 2016 an MOU was undertaken to establish this special Nation-to-Nation relationship.

First Nations Health Authority provided support for Hobiyee through its ​2019 FNHA Winter Wellness Grants program.  "Getting this funding was a huge boost for us," says Stevens, who worked closely with the Lead Coordinator for Hobiyee, Renee Garner. The First Nation Health Authority provided support to fundraising and sponsorship, and Stevens notes that the Wellness Grant application process was straightforward.

As the festivities came to an end, the replica crescent moon with a single star nestled into its arch was passed along to next year's host, the village of Gitlaxt'aamiks (New Aiyansh). Let's hope there is a little less snow.

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