British Columbia·Photos

Volunteers prepare for weekend of dance, food, friendship at Hoobiyee, the Nisga'a new year celebration

This weekend is the start of the Nisga'a new year, known as Hoobiyee, and Indigenous communities from around the province will be gathering to share performances, enjoy meals and celebrate.

'We’ll invite you out on the dance floor to feel the beat of the drum, to feel the Hoobiyee spirit'

The night before the two-day Hoobiyee celebration, volunteers get ready for dancers and performers travelling from around the province to attend a welcoming dinner at the PNE Forum on Thursday. (Rohit Joseph/CBC)

This weekend is the start of the Nisga'a new year, known as Hoobiyee, and Indigenous communities from around the province will be gathering to share performances, enjoy meals and meet new friends in Vancouver.

Hoobiyee is the celebration of the harvest moon, which the Nisga'a believe will foretell how bountiful their food will be for the year.

The free event takes place at the PNE Forum starting Friday.

Hoobiyee has grown significantly over the years and volunteer Keane Tate says it started at the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship centre on Hastings Street in the mid-'90s with a small dinner and one cultural performance.

"Hoobiyee has grown into this amazing event where it's not only the Indigenous community here in Vancouver that comes to help celebrate the Nisga'a new year."

Keane Tate is one of the volunteers helping set up for the Hoobiyee celebration. He said the event has grown from a small dinner with one performance to this weekend's large event expected to draw thousands. (Rohit Joseph/CBC)

Now the event is expected to see 5,000 to 6,000 people over the course of the two-day celebration according to Sheldon Martin, president of the Nisga'a Ts'amiks Vancouver Society.

"... In the city, the difficulty is finding space to gather and finding the opportunity," Martin told On The Coast host Gloria Macarenko.

"We all have very busy lives and so carving out ...hours to gather and sing and dance and learn our culture is difficult at the beginning of each year, but as we slowly get into it and we prepare for events such as this, everyone looks forward to gathering weekly for those practices."

Sheldon Martin (right) greets guests at the PNE Forum. (Rohit Joseph/CBC)
Volunteers cook Thursday's meal. (Rohit Joseph/CBC)

Each year the celebration expands, creating a space for many bands to come and share stories and performances specific to their nation.

"With our growing relationships with the nations that reside here in Vancouver, not only the host nations but also nations who have made this city their home community, we've really established relationships with them and invited them over the years to share their cultural performances with us," Tate said.

Drummers welcome other performers to Vancouver on Thursday. (Rohit Joseph/CBC)

Martin encourages everyone to join the celebration and share  "Nisga'a pride" and First Nations culture.

"We're very inclusive meaning we'll invite you out on the dance floor to feel the beat of the drum, to feel the Hoobiyee spirit," he said.

Performances start at 11:30 a.m. PT Friday at the PNE Forum in Vancouver, and will include a drum drill featuring 100 drummers at 5 p.m. 

On the Coast will be previewing the event Friday at 4:15 p.m. PT and will be on location at the PNE at 5:35 p.m. PT.  

Alex Watts is volunteering his time to help set up the hall with his handmade banners. (Rohit Joseph/CBC)

With files from On The Coast, Rohit Joseph

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