CONTRIBUTION · 24th February 2013
Prior to contact and for thousands of years Nisga'a survived and flourished in this God given valley. When the creator placed us in this valley we were also given helpers to show us the way to a good life. With these gifts also came the gift of the knowledge of studying the heavens. Watching the moon; stars, sun, and behavior of animals to foretell upcoming events.
The ancestors who were given this task were known as "halayt." A ‘spiritual’ person. In English they might be known as "astronomers and prophets." While there are many different halayt, these specific halayt were part of the village of Gitwinksihlkw.
The halayt were our weathermen. They could foretell the migration of our food sources such as the salmon, animals and oolichans and when the weather was going to change. They were also our foreseers, they also could foretell upcoming births and impending death.
Thousands of years ago our people acknowledged the winter solstice by naming the moon that appears during that time as Luut'aa. Luu for in and t'aa for sit. It is referring to the sun sitting in one place. Counting the moons to look for the hobiyee moon actually begins here.
The next moon is called K'aliiyee. K'alii for going upriver or going north and yee for walk. Again referring to the sun which is now beginning its walk upriver. This is the moon when the halayt watched in anticipation for the next moon which is called Buxwlaks. Buxw for blowing around and laks referring to coniferous needles.
The halayt sat in a hollowed out piece of ground on a cedar log carved out as their chairs. These halayt used telescopes made from birch bark and had crevices in the sacred mountain that they watched the celestial heavens and made note of the sun and moon's progress.
There were several of these halayt and they maintained continuous observation. During this period of our lunar year our people prayed for a hobiyee moon. A moon that would signify a bountiful year. The hobiyee moon was the quarter moon that had looked like a spoon that is situated in such a way that its contents do not spill out. Above this spoon is a star. When all this happens in the moon of Buxwlaks the Halayt shouts Hoobix Eee. A shout addressed to the other men. This gets shortened to hobiyee. When we have a hobiyee moon it is a time for celebration because the following year will be a bountiful year with lots of oolichans, salmon, berries etc. Last year the hobiyee moon had 2 stars above it and it was the shortest fishing season for oolichans because the bins were filled so quickly.
During the period of oppression when gathering together was banned by the government this practice stopped. In 1992 it was revived in our village by our Raven Chief the current Sim'oogit Hymaas Chester Moore. We held Hobiyee celebrations in our village and neighbouring villages celebrated with us. The celebration grew and another Chief, Sim'oogit Baxk ap decided that perhaps we should let other villages host it. Sim'oogit Baxk'ap enlisted the help of his family and together they made a moon which is passed on to the next village who is going to host the Hobiyee celebrations.
Needless to say the celebration has grown even more. Our current elders wanted to relay this story to all of you to reaffirm that it began here in Gitwinksihlkw many, many years ago.
Comment by Dave B on 24th February 2013
Thank you to Gitwinksihlkw for this explanation.
I have been told before about other Nisga'a "legends" and that is the wrong word but can't think of an appropriate one.
They all put to shame the bigger world's perception of understanding mother nature. The First Nations of not only North and South America but all over the world knew and know about our world better than "us" high and mighty know it alls. It is truely too bad "we" turned a blind eye to what was available and we continue to do so.
Happy Hobiyee to the Nisga'a people!!