Over the years, Canadians have become more educated on the lack of differences between the westernized society and the Native society. In The Rez Sisters Author, Tomson Highway uses the play to depict the harsh realities confronting Indigenous peoples that are often disguised and hidden by society.
The play illustrates the extreme mistreatment of the native culture, more specifically native women, who have experienced many difficulties throughout the play. Through the physical, mental, and emotional abuse of Emily Dictionary, Philomena Moosetail, and Zhaboonigan Peterson, Highway is able to display the effect of abuse seen from the native perspective along with the negative effects abuse can have on a person.In the Rez Sisters, Highway uses Emily’s experiences, of abuse to depict the ways in which abuse can affect and change a person.
In society, Canada has failed to solve the issue of abuse for Indigenous peoples. Highway attempts to show the unjust circumstance many Native women have been forced into along with the little to no help provided by the government to protect and remove these women from such a toxic environment. Leading the women to feel the need to defend themselves as Emily did after being physically abused for “Ten years every second night”(Highway 50) until he came at her with an axe and she ” grabbed one bag, took one last look at the kids and walked out of his life forever”(Highway 51) through this traumatic event she manages to liberate herself and is strengthened by her experience rather than broken.Many Native women were seen as objects to the white male.
Through his vulgar and blunt dialogue Highway brings light to topics many people do not like to acknowledge. He shows how the Native women were being devalued and seen as disposable. From Philomena’s relationship with her white lover Highway is able to demonstrate the ignorance of the time along with the effect emotional abuse can toll on a person. Philomena’s lover was ashamed of being associated with her culture from finding out about the pregnancy it is implied that giving up the child for adoption was not her choice due to the fact that 28 years later she wanted to ” find a lawyer. Maybe she can find that child.”(Highway 81). Philomena like many of the women was first consumed by the thought of materialistic items but when the realization occurs that it would have been her child’s 28th birthday she puts the idea of materialistic items out of her mind unlike the other women and solely wants the money to connect with her child. This shows how deeply affected Philomena was by the emotional abuse from years prior.
Throughout the play, Highway brings awareness to many of the issues facing Native women. In The Rez Sisters, Highway reveals the extent in which the native culture has been devalued and suppressed.Through the rape of Zhaboonigan, he was able to create a metaphor and symbolize the agonizing pain Nanabush felt when learning of Zhaboonigan’s trauma. Highway is able to use her rape in both a metaphorical and literal way not only displaying a recurring form of abuse but also the rape of the Native culture. Highway utilizes her experience to depict the mistreatment of the indigenous peoples, such that the Westernized society feels the need to “fix” her as they see her and her culture as the barbaric way of living. So much so that they “left her in a bush. Alone.
“(Highway 48) to further distance themselves from the Native culture. In The Rez Sisters, Tomson Highway is able to illustrate many problems facing the indigenous peoples in society, along with outline the injustices forced upon them by the westernized society. Through the play, he reveals the traumatic effect that comes with different forms of abuse along with how the negative effects will impact the victim. Highway is able to utilize his play to display how the abuse affects the women along with the native culture as a whole.