Hobiyee- The Nisga’a Lunar New Year

On February 6th 2016, I attended Hobiyee- the Nisga’a Lunar New Year at the PNE. I was able to witness about 6 different dance groups as well as the drum drill. Each group was incredibly unique, talented and exciting to watch. While in attendance I paid specific attention to protocol: the entirety of the dance floor was designated for whichever dance group was performing at the time and we were explicitly told not to cut across the back of the dance floor. The audience was told to rise as dancers entered and as they exited the dance floor, additionally there were seats designated at the front for elders. Every dance group began their performance by thanking their Coast Salish hosts and detailed the communities and territories they were coming from. Every song and dance was introduced and the story attached to the song was told. Performers stated whether the song was contemporarily created or if it has been passed down and by whom.

Aside from protocol there were a few notable phenomena that I wanted to include in my witnessing account of the event. First of all, I noted that there were a number of dancers in wheelchairs. I appreciated that the presence and seeming acceptance of such dancers who subverted notions of ableism that stem from colonial norms distinguishing desirable bodies from tolerated and deviant bodies. This act of radical inclusion did not seem radical at all and from what I could perceive was incredibly normative in the space.

Additionally, I found after spending a full day at the Hobiyee celebration I was able to recognize the various dances from the Coast Salish clans in attendance. A member of the Iswalh dance group said earlier on in the day that “our songs and dances tell the stories of who we are as people”. By the end of Hobiyee I felt I had a much better grasp of who the coastal nations were, as well as certain aspects of their cultures that were portrayed through dance to hold significance.   

 

2 thoughts on “Hobiyee- The Nisga’a Lunar New Year”

  1. Madison,
    I enjoyed reading your account of Hobiyee– too bad we didn’t see or run into one another when we were both there! I appreciate your specific realisation about the dancers with disabilities; how interesting and true! I would also be interested to know the particular realisations you came to regarding the differences in style and movement of particular nations’ dances.

  2. Excellent account of witnessing protocol at Hobiyee Madison! As you observed, protocol is foundational to Northwest Coast First Nations dance practices. Relationships between people and Nations are built and maintained through both the actions and verbal assertions of protocol. Standing up when a dance group enters the floor is a sign of respect. This is the same for being mindful that not to cross the floor when they are performing. The reciprocation of this protocol between dance groups is a part of maintaining good relationships.

    Great observation on our “radical inclusion,” I’ve never really thought of it that way. Our people dance no matter the body type, ability, or age. One of my favorite Nisga’a dancers is a blind. She follows her mother on the dance floor by sensing her. It’s beautiful!

    I’m not quite sure what you mean by “the Coast Salish Clans in attendance.” By saying “clans” you mean Nations? The Iswalh dancers are of the Lil’wat Nation. They are interior Salish. Are you able to distinguish by their regalia or dancing, or maybe both?

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