Res Sisters Essay
* Zain Mehdi Prof: Mary Nordick English – 110. 07 Thursday, March 7th What have you learned about life on the reservation from Highway’s play? Has the play changed any of your opinions or perceptions? The play The Rez Sisters was written by Tomson Highway, a Cree from the Brochet reserve in north-western Manitoba, at the end of the twentieth century. Through a group of seven native women, Tomson Highway’s The Rez Sisters reveals the lives of aboriginal people and their community on an Indian Reservation. The play shows the harsh realities of Indian reservations of joblessness, prejudice and alcoholism.
The old Aboriginal rituals have slowly been forgotten and replaced by the cliches of consumerism. While the people of the community don’t lack the attitude of get–up-and-go, they really have no place to go to. The inhabitants of the Wasy Rez are part of a community that is falling apart. Most of the people are stuck on the welfare, and just getting by on the dirt roads of the Rez. Moreover, they don’t have any control over their lives. Throughout the play, the main characters state, “Everyone here’s crazy” (Highway, 518). Since there is no work on the Rez, it makes most of the people on welfare go crazy.
Some of the men have to go hundred miles to find work while the young boys have to go all the way to Toronto because it is “the only place educated Indian boys can find decent jobs these days” (Highway, 518). There is constant drinking, fighting and adultery. There is “nothing to do but drink and screw each other’s wives and husbands…” (Highway, 518). Infidelity is so common on the Rez that some of the families have “…fourteen of them (children)…Imagine…and all from one father” (Highway, 522). * * After reading The Rez Sisters, I was a little surprised by the life on a reserve.
I was raised in Toronto, where I did not personally know any Native Americans and everything I knew about them was from the books. In the books it describes the Native Americans as being very religious, so when I heard about a big Pow Wow (a native gathering) and I decided to go. I learned a little about the traditional beliefs so when I moved from Toronto to Saskatoon, and it was a complete shock. You see a lot of Native Americans but you rarely see ones who actually follow the traditional beliefs. Most of them have cut their long hair, or never even grew it out.
The Rez Sisters focuses on such undervalued lives and brings them up to size. * * Highway’s play is trying to deliver a social massage that if the Native Americans had enough job opportunities and freedom to live wherever they wanted, they would succeed in rebuilding their falling community. I agree with that one hundred percent because they are put down so much, that they have decided to stay in that one spot and not bother trying to work up to something much better. In The Rez sisters Philomena says that: “the place gets in your blood, you can’t get rid of it and it can’t get rid of you” (Highway, 517).
I was really impressed by this statement because it shows that they really do honor their heritage a lot, but it’s difficult for them to leave the only thing they have always known. * * The story of The Rez Sisters dictates the life is tough, but poses the question: What else they are going to do? Well they can always go play bingo. Which is humorous because Highway uses bingo as a form of escape from the life on a reserve. I gained more respect for Native Americans because I never really had an idea of the life on reserves. I figured the people on the reserve followed the traditional beliefs and kept to themselves.
I realized they don’t get much help from the government and are left on their own to manage, and with the people not having enough jobs, all they have left to do is kill time, and that is where the alcohol and adultery comes in. * * * * * * * *
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