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Native Literature Written By Natives

It is unfairly noted that Native Literature written by Natives offends many readers with its discussion of the first-hand social ills affecting fellow Natives. However, the typical stories of Euro-Canadian relations constructed outside the Aboriginal thought imprisons all Aboriginals into stereotypes which obscure and distort their very real experiences. The obligation of the Native artist is to remain grounded in cultural soil and ideals, which is determined by Euro-Canadian standards, while at the same time establishing a foundation of justice and truth within the context of their work. Ian Ross has addressed many of these social ills in his play fareWel. Using humor, characterization and personal experience Ross depicts reserve life from outside the Euro-Canadian perspective, as being hopeful despite the blatant despair and antagonism reserve life contains. The Partridge Crop Reserve in Manitoba is a fictional place where the fictional characters Melvin MacKay, Sheldon Traverse, Rachel Traverse, Phyllis Bruce, Teddy Sinclair, and Robert Traverse, become muses through which Ross uses to convey poignant information about the need for social reform for social ills. The representation of the treatment of Native women throughout history has been from a one-sided view. Either they were seen as unequal or as royalty, resulting in being branded as squaws or Indian Princess by the people who adhere to the Christian point of view. Ross seems to understand this falsehood and attempts to rectify it with the creation of the characters Phyllis Bruce and Rachel Traverse. They are both reserved based Native Women, who lived a hard and fast life, but respect the church, however they are neither squaws nor Indian Princesses. Phyllis is a single-parent who was beaten by her husband but attempts to use this experience to strengthen Rachel by saying, You can hide in the roof here OK? That’s where I used to hide so I didn’t get beat up (pg.66). There are few options for Native, uneducated, and single-parent women and Phyllis chooses to use her mind to fight the struggle which emphasizes the significant role woman as mothers and providers are forced to play. Also throughout the play Phyllis is constantly looking for a way to feed her kids while in the same thought explores how to feed a church full of people with sardines and moldy bread (pg.66). This highly illustrates that despite the obvious misfortune that Phyllis is entwined in she stills feels compelled to do her duty to her church, her friends, and herself. Phyllis is the symbol of strength for her enduring and overcoming. Rachel was created to emphasize the insurmountable difficulties that Native women face, first as being the Native woman, and second, for being unable to achieve economic or social value. She relays this message to the reader when she states, ?and when I left here I realized what I was?A woman. A Native woman. With no education. No money. No future. (pg. 68) In order to gain economic value she had to prostitute herself due to the lack of adequate means to legitimate opportunities. It is a horror that is greatly misinterpreted by her fellow Natives for instance, Teddy constantly refers to her as a hooker (pg. 58) or a slut (pg.59), which only proves that the spirit of a native woman can never be broken. In her desperate attempts to gain economic freedom she was unfairly judged and subsequently lost social status. Although Rachel yearns to leave the reserve it is her deep sense of hope that the reserve will overcome the turmoil that keeps her there. Her welfare check also keeps her in a constant reality check because without it she is forced to resort to being the whore(pg.59) It is Rachel and Phyllis that truly define the meaning of hope with their conquests for self betterment. The essence of this play is captured by its ability to add comic relief in its context through each characters unique disposition. But, it is Nigger with his abnormal actions, thoughts and appearance, which brings humor to the play the most efficiently. Our first experience with Nigger is when Animush (pg.22) attacks him leaving him with an open scar and torn jeans. The humor lies in the image of Nigger who


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