Thousands of people gathered at the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver on Friday for the first Hoobiyee gathering in three years.
Hoobiyee marks a new season of harvesting for the Nisga’a Nation with the arrival of saak, a breed of eulachon fish that is a staple of the traditional Nisga’a diet.
The Nisga’a Ts’amiks Vancouver Society is hosting two days of events March 3-4. Fourteen First Nations from across B.C. are attending with 600 dancers performing and 60 vendors selling clothes, jewelry and crafts.
“It’s just restoring [our roots], getting back to our culture, dancing and once you hear the drum beats, you’re relaxed,” said Tony Robinson, CEO of Nisga’a Ts’amiks Vancouver Society.
Robinson said he expects about 20,000 people to pass through over the two days.
Robinson isn’t the only one who is excited to celebrate Hoobiyee in person again. Connor Moore, 14, said he is happy to be back.
“It always made me just feel good … and it’s just nice energy,” said Moore, who is Nisga’a.
“Hearing everybody sing, dance. Seeing everybody in our culture have fun and whatnot, yeah, I’m really excited.”
Moore said his favourite part of the Hoobiyee is the grand entrance and grand finale. He is volunteering with his mom and will likely participate in some of the events when he comes back on Saturday.
“I feel like this year is going to be a good year because everybody gets to come back [after the pandemic] and it looks pretty packed in here, too,” said Moore.
Maximus Stewart-Michell, 18, is attending his first Hoobiyee celebration.
“It means a lot to me to be here because I’ve always grown up around potlatch and pow wows, and to be here means a lot to me,” said Stewart-Michell, who is Nisga’a.
He grew up in Prince George, B.C., but recently moved to Vancouver to learn more about his culture and community.
Stewart-Michell said he is most excited about the food vendors at the event and that he feels Hoobiyee is a “place of healing and a place of happiness.”
A veteran Hoobiyee participant, 12-year-old Aiyana Alexcee, who is Nisga’a, Tsimshian, and Haida, said she likes watching people dance and elders having fun.
“All these people are sort of connected to me,” said Alexcee.
“Some of them are my cousins or my aunts, or my grandparents.”
The Hoobiyee grand finale will take place Saturday at 9 p.m.