Hobiyee festival brightens Vancouver


Members of the Nisga’a Nation will gather at Vancouver’s PNE Forum for song, dance, and storytelling as they celebrate their annual festival, Hobiyee. (Photo courtesy of Double Exposure)

Story by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Many travellers assume they need to venture to the traditional territory of Indigenous communities in order to witness their grand celebrations. While that is often the case for potlatch ceremonies, pow-wows and other festivities, one distinct annual gathering takes place in Vancouver, and all are welcome.

Hobiyee (pronounced ho-bee-yeah) commemorates the Nisga’a Nation’s lunar new year and sparks life into the PNE Forum during the cold, wet season in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland. Historically, the Nisga’a people — whose home is in the Nass Valley, about 1,200 kilometres (745 miles) north of Vancouver — observed the moon in February. If the crescent moon is in the shape of a Hoobix (the bowl of the Nisg̱a’a wooden spoon) with the ends pointing upward, this meant there would be a bountiful year of harvest for the Nisg̱a’a. To celebrate the coming year of abundance, the Nisg̱a’a gathered and celebrated through song, dance, and storytelling.


Artistic performances are among the highlights of Hobiyee, which takes place on February 2-3, 2018, and marks the Nisga’a Nation’s new year, which is linked to the appearance of the crescent moon. (Aboriginal BC photo)

The Hobiyee program includes hours of entertainment within the PNE Forum, the site of Vancouver’s annual summer carnival and exhibition, and whose arena has seating for more than 5,000 attendees. Vancouver, called Ts’amiks by the Nisga’a, is home to approximately 1,400 members of the Nisg̱a’a Nation – whose overall population numbers greater than 7,400.

During the festival, guests will learn about the Nisg̱a’a culture and perhaps be inspired to journey to visit Nisg̱a’a Lands in northwestern British Columbia to explore historic sites in the Nass Valley. Among the attractions is the 18,000-hectare Nisg̱a’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park, where a volcano erupted three centuries ago. It is a memorial site because thousands of Nisg̱a’a people died during the eruption, which destroyed villages and left behind a unique landscape with grey and black lava, and otherworldly features. The eruption in the 18th century was the last volcanic explosion to take place in Canada.

In the Nass Valley, Hobiyee celebrations rotate annually through the four Nisga’a villages. The names of these villages have recently been changed back to their traditional identifiers. They include Gitlax̱t’aamiks (New Aiyansh), considered the capital of the Nisg̱a’a Nation, Gitwinksihlkw (Canyon City), Lax̱g̱alts’ap (Greenville), and Ging̱olx (Kincolith).

Hobiyee is only one of many cultural celebrations unique to the Nisga’a. Others festivals take place throughout the year in the Nass Valley and are commonly associated with the traditional foods harvested in a given season. Some of them include: X̱saak, which occurs in March and is symbolized by oolichans, or candlefish, the first food harvested after winter. In April, Mm̓aal marks the use of canoes following the breaking of ice on the Nass River. In August, W’ii Hoon, or Great Salmon, features a massive harvest of the revered fish that has sustained life in the Nass Valley for millennia.

Activities close to the region include visiting Khutzeymateen Provincial Park, home to the largest population of grizzly bears in British Columbia, and taking in the scenery in and around the small city of Terrace, where Nisga’a also reside alongside many people from the Coast Tsimshian First Nations.


Location: PNE, 2901 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC (see map below)
Dates: February 2-3, 2018; doors open at 10:30 am, and celebrations run until after 9 pm.
Admission: Free
More Information: Visit www.tsamiks.com for additional details.
History of Hobiyee: Visit www.nisgaanation.ca/hoobiyee for further facts about this festival.
More About Aboriginal BC: Visit Aboriginal Tourism BC’s website for more information about Indigenous travel experiences within the province.

Adrian is the editor of Vacay.ca and VacayNetwork.com. Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing, travel photography, and fiction, and has visited more than 55 countries. He is a former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, and was the social media and advocacy manager for Destination Canada. His articles have frequently appeared in the Huffington Post, Globe & Mail, and other major publications. He has appeared on national and local broadcasts, talking about travel, sports, creative writing and journalism. In 2019, he launched Trippzy, a travel-trivia app developed to educate consumers about destinations around the world. He also edited "Inspired Cooking", a nutrition-focused cookbook featuring 20 of Canada's leading chefs and in support of the cancer-fighting charity, InspireHealth. "Inspired Cooking" was created in honour of Adrian's late wife and Vacay.ca co-founder, Julia Pelish, who passed away of brain cancer in 2016.

One Comment

  • cree-queen

    February 2, 2018 at 8:07 pm

    It should probably be noted that Vancouver DOES sit on the traditional unceeded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh people. Vancouver is traditional territory for Indigenous communities


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