The Reservation Vs The City In Tomson Highway’s The Rez Sisters

2132 words - 9 pages

Tomson Highway’s play The Rez Sisters shows both the negative and positive results of the interaction between Aboriginal and white culture (Nothof, 1). This is seen in the Rez (small town) vs. Toronto (city) mentality that the play’s characters use to measure value of things (Aurylaitė, 172). The influence of the city, white culture and its objects help shape the identity of the characters and even affect the community. For the characters Toronto is the place where all their dreams will come true (Aurylaitė, 172-173). It is Toronto that draws them into the desire of ‘the American dream,’ perhaps better described in current times as the ‘Western Dream,’ and materialistic wealth. Despite that the reserve of Wasaychigan is relatively isolated from the large metropolitan centers; the culture of urban whites has easily spread to the small community.
In the Rez Sisters the reserve of Wasaychigan and Toronto are seen very differently by the women. The reserve has no paved roads due to a lazy old chief that has broken this promise to his people repeatedly ( Highway, 6) and is seen as small, dusty and boring, a view (Aurylaitė, 172) which is reflected by Pelajia during a conversation with her sister Philomena:
Pelajia. Everyone here’s crazy. No jobs. Nothing to do but screw each other’s wives and husbands and forget about our Nanabush (Highway, 6).
Pelajia’s statement reflects the feeling that the reserve is boring and there are no activities of importance that she or the others can partake in. Pelajia is probably the character with the most desire to leave the reserve, though Philomena insists she won’t:
PELAJIA. I’m tired, Philomena, tired of this place. There’s days I want to leave so bad. . .
PHILOMENA. You’ll never leave.
PELAJIA. Yes I will. When I’m old.
PHILOMENA: You’re old right now.
PELAJIA. I got a good 30 years to go. . .
PHILOMENA. . . . and you’re going to live every one of them right here beside me . . .
PELAJIA. . . . maybe forty . . .
PHILOMENA. . . . here in Wasy (Highway, 3).
Pelajia’s desperation to leave the reserve shows her desire to experience something new and different. She longs to leave what she sees as a boring existence behind and live the last years of her life somewhere else. However Philomena insists Pelajia will never move elsewhere, which serves as a reminder that many who long to leave their place of origin never do. The experiences of Emily Dictionary serve both as somewhat of a contrast and yet contains similar ideas.
Though Emily was born on the reserve she also has spent lengthy time away from it after leaving an abusive husband. She finds herself in San Francisco, where she joins a gang of Native female bikers. However in the long run Emily’s freedom from Wasy is short lived. Under the pressure of mainstream culture and “how fuckin hard it is to be an Indian in this country," the leader of the...

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