Ewk Hiyah Hozdli dancers perform a Wet'suwet'en welcome song at Stories in the Snow in Smithers last Friday.

First Nations dance group sharing culture with a beat

The Ewk Hiyah Hozdli Dance Group in Smithers is performing traditional Wet'suwet'en songs and dances to keep their culture strong.

Adults and children in elaborate button blankets and striking masks danced to the drumbeat of Wet’suwet’en songs at the Stories in the Snow fundraiser in Smithers last week.

Traditional songs and stories were shared in a public showcase of Wet’suwet’en culture presented by the Ewk Hiyah Hozdli Dance Group on Friday.

The event was held to raise money so the dancers can travel to New Aiyansh to perform at a Nisga’a First Nation event known as “hobiyee” (pronounced ho-bee-yay) from Feb. 26-27.

A Nisga’a New Year celebration, hobiyee marks the return of the prized oolichan fish to the Nass Valley.

For the local dancers, it is an opportunity to share traditional Wet’suwet’en dances and songs with the Nisga’a Nation.

Ewk Hiyah Hozdli member Molly Wickham said the group’s goal was to remember Wet’suwet’en culture, and to share it with the wider Bulkley Valley community.

“Because a lot of our songs and dances aren’t sung anymore,  and a lot of people don’t remember our mass dances at all either, we’ve been bringing those back,” she said.

“Currently our membership, the children outnumber the adults, which is awesome, it’s really amazing.”

Wickham and the other Ewk Hiyah Hozdli dancers have turned to their elders to piece together the songs and dances, and to learn to perform them properly.

“We were really fortunate to have access to those elders before they passed away,” said Wickham.

“A lot of stuff we pieced together through research and stories and talking to different elders.

“We still are learning things about the songs that we didn’t know before.”

Hear Ewk Hiyah Hozdli performing the grouse song at Stories in the Snow:

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