This series of questions further elaborate on the key themes of the previous page. These questions may serve as models for students who are looking for good research and essay questions, or examples of the kinds of questions a teacher may ask on an exam.
- Disruptions: Nanabush often disrupts conversations and events throughout the play. Why might this be significant, and what does this suggest about his role within the social sphere?
- Comparisons: Highway’s representation of Nanabush is one of many in Nēhilawē (Cree) and Anishinaabe (Ojibway) storytelling. To see the political implications of Highway’s depiction of Nanabush in The Rez Sisters, it is helpful to consider Denis Johnston’s short description of Highway’s Nēhilawē understanding of Nanabush (255) as well as Basil Johnston’s Anishinaabe perspective (56–59). What specific aspects of Nanabush does Highway dramatize, and what does this accomplish?
Language and cultural interactions
- Language and interaction: How does The Rez Sisters explore cultural interactions, such as through the use of both Nēhiyawēwin (Cree) and Anishinaabemowin (Ojibway) on the reserve and through interactions with other Canadian cultures?
- Colonial institutions: Consider the role of Christianity in life on the reserve, in contrast to Nanabush’s presence. What do the women’s comments reveal about their relationship to Christianity and, by association, to colonialism?
- Reserves: The Rez Sisters was workshopped and developed by De-ba-jeh-mu-jig Theatre in 1986 on the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve, usually just called Wiky. How did Highway bring this real place into the theatrical representation? Do some research into the theatre company and Wiky. How does this add to your understanding of the play?
- How does knowledge of the reserve system complicate your understanding of the play? How does the play reflect on this history?
- Perspectives: How do locations tie to images and notions of identity throughout the play? For instance, each character is introduced in specific locations, and their actions and comments reflect particular perspectives on these spaces. Similarly, travelling away from and back to these places also plays a significant role in changing their perspectives on themselves and their community.
- Road trips: Consider the regionality of the play: how does the road trip from the rural reserve to the urban centre of the city of Toronto drive the narrative? How do Emily’s reflections on her previous travels with the bikers in California inform the trip to Toronto?
- Home: How does the play explore the concept of home, and what contributes to it? How does each character offer a different perspective on life on the reserve, the community there, and how they think of it as home or not?
- Highway, Tomson. Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing. Saskatoon: Fifth House, 1989. Print.
- Highway, Tomson. The Rez Sisters. Saskatoon: Fifth House, 1988. Print.
- Johnston, Denis W.
Lines and Circles: TheCanadian Literature 124–25 (1990): 254–64. Print. (PDF)
RezPlays of Tomson Highway.
- Johnston, Basil H. “Is That All There Is? Tribal Literature.” Canadian Literature 128 (1991): 54–62. Print. (PDF)