Ways of Life

Hoobiyee: Nisg̱a’a New Year

Hoobiyee is the annual community celebration of the Nisg̱a’a New Year. Based on ancient Nisg̱a’a traditions that observed the passing of winter, Hoobiyee was re-introduced as a Nisg̱a’a celebration by Chief Haym̓aas (Chester Moore) of the village of Gitwinksihlkw during the 1990s. Today it is one of the most spectacular Nisg̱a’a festivals, encompassing traditional food, song and dance over one weekend in February.

Hoobiyee was traditionally based on observations of the new crescent moon. Since times before written history, the Nisg̱a’a ancestors would look for the new crescent moon during the month of February, watching for a sign of prosperity for the coming year. They imagined the crescent moon to be a giant symbolic spoon. If the crescent was lying on its side, then it resembled a spoon that would be “full”, signifying that the coming year would bring good harvests of salmon, oolichan, and other important Nisg̱a’a foods.

The name “Hoobiyee” is therefore derived from the Nisg̱a’a expression “Hoobixgwis hee”, meaning “The spoon is full”. When the Nisg̱a’a ancestors saw the new crescent moon lying on its side, they would run outside and joyfully shout, “Hoobixgwis hee! Hoobixgwis hee!” – The spoon is full! The spoon is full!

As Hoobiyee is a celebration of a new year of prosperity, the food for a Hoobiyee feast is especially plentiful. The feast includes dishes as diverse as smoked oolichan, crab, fresh seal, smoked sea lion, halibut, smoked salmon, seaweed, cockles, herring eggs and clams!

Chief Chester Moore remembers packing wood for the kitchen stove on a cold, dry February evening when he was about 6 years old. He had his arms full of firewood when he suddenly heard his cousin next door yelling. He dropped the wood and ran inside his house, and he told his father that something wrong with his cousin next door. His father said, “Go look out the window and see how the moon is hanging.”

Chester looked out the window and saw a very thin crescent moon, with both tips pointed upwards. He told his father what he saw, and his father told him, “Go outside and holler hoobiyee as loud as you can.” He did this, and he heard some people shouting hoobiyee at the other end of the village.

This memory would return to him many years later. As a cultural dance leader for the memorial pole raising at Gitwinksihlkw on October 17, 1990, Chief Chester Moore needed a grand finale song. While driving home from Terrace, he came around the Lava Lake logging road and he saw a new crescent moon. He suddenly remembered the hoobiyee, and the song hoobiyee came to him. He sang the song all the way home, and he later taught it to the women and the cultural dancers.

Today, the Hoobiyee celebration belongs to all of the Nisg̱a’a wherever they live.