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Aboriginal Playwrite Tomson Highways "Rez Sisters" And "Dry Lips Oughta Move To Kapuskasing": A Clash Of Cultures And The Promise Of Rebirth

2183 words - 9 pages

A Clash of Cultures and the Promise of Rebirth: Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing and The Rez SistersThroughout "The Rez Sisters" and "Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing", TomsonHighway expresses his concern regarding the cultural conflict experienced by aboriginals on the reserve. He does this by demonstrating the juxtaposition of cultural and ethereal values faced by Native and White Canadians. Christian priests attempted to eradicate and demonize Native spirituality and force their own beliefs upon indigenous people and the negative aftereffect of cultural contention that is experienced is dramatized through the lives of the men and women who create the Native community of Wasaychigan Hill.A constant theme in "Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing" is the conflict of two opposing religions and the nature of the relationship between Christianity and Native spirituality. In a lecture, Tomson Highway has said "Christianity takes personal power away from you", and this is the undercurrent for both Dry Lips and The Rez Sisters; to dramatize the outcome of the attempt of White culture to destroy Native culture. During the same lecture, Highway stated that "Christianity was a beautiful idea that went horribly wrong".As Highway indicates in his notes to The Rez Sisters, "Wasaychigan" means window in Ojibwa. This functions as a metonym in both plays. It symbolizes Native communities looking out on an economically stalwart White society, and then looking in at its own signs of self-destruction and self-preservation. Pelajia Patchnose, of The Rez Sisters, sits atop the roof of her house replacing shingles. She can see " half of Manitoulin Island on a clear day" She sees indications of a prolific family life behind Marie-Adele's white picket fence, and signs of delinquency and negligence in Big Joey's garbage heap of a backyard. Just past the reserve she can see the pulp mill in Espanola where her husband is employed. If she had binoculars she could see the super stack of Sudbury; and if she was Superwoman, she'd be able to see the CN Tower in Toronto, where two of her sons work. This implies the principle of six degrees of separation, where everything and everyone is connected. The life of her family extends beyond the physical and social borders of the reservation and finds a level of compromise beyond its parameters. Being aware of the social and spiritual inflictions faced by the Rez, Pelija ponders the possibility of an insurrection in which the white male authority of church and state is overthrown."Everyone here's crazy. No jobs. Nothing to do but drink and screw each other's wives and husband and forget about our Nanabush." (6)Furthermore, "the old stories, the old language" are "almost gone" (5). Ambiguously, however Pelajia also recounts with longing and nostalgia, a great bingo-player from the past that functions for her almost as a deity. She hones in on any positive indicator of continuation and empowerment. She inspires the other women of...

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