Tomson Highway was an aboriginal Canadianplaywright, novelist and children’s author.
Born on December 6 1951 on a snowbank on the border of Manitoba and Nunavut. He is the son of a legendarycaribou hunter and championship dogsled racer, Joe highway. His mom went intolabor on a dog sled so he almost was born on the sled. At the age of 6 he wastaken away from his family and placed in a residential school which he was inuntil he was 15. Residential schools were boarding schools for indigenous childrenand were run by the government. The reason for residential schools was theydidn’t want the indigenous children under the influence of their own culture,so they were taken away from their families from a young age (usually aroundthe age of 4) then they had to stay in them until their mid teen years (usuallyaround the age of 16.) Taking them away from their families at a young age meantthey wouldn’t remember their own culture and would only know the dominant Canadianculture.
The students at residential schools were harmed because they were sofar away from their families and didn’t have their original language so this exposedthem to sexual and physical abuse. Tomsons original language was Cree but he was forcedto study English and French because those are Canada’s official languages. Thefirst residential school opened in the 1840s and the last residential schoolrun by the government was closed in 1996. In 2008 current prime ministerStephan Harper apologized to all indigenous people on behalf of the government.At the residential school Tomson went through some of sexual abuse from thepriests who ran the school. He spoke of “the joy” of attending the Guy Hill residentialschool, “I learned you language for god’s sake. Have you learned mine, No sowhose privileged and whose under privileged.
” The loss of language, culture andthe legacy of abuse still haunts the indigenous today. Despite all that we haveto remember the indigenous are still very successful people. He graduated fromthe residential school at 15 years old from there he met James Reaney when hewent to university in western Ontario.
For the next few years he traveledaround the country working for many aboriginal organizations as a socialworker. He learned about many aboriginal problems. At age 30 he felt thattheatre had many traditions similar to aboriginal culture so he decided to expresswhat he had seen through theatre. His plays The Rez Sisters and Dry Lips OughtaMove to Kapuskasing were both part of an unfinished series which was supposedto include 7 plays. Tomson calls this series his Rez Septology.
Dry lips Oughta move to Kapuskasing wasoriginally titled The Rez Brothers. Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing was thefirst Canadian play to get a full production at Torontos royal Alexandratheatre. Tomson soon got very frustrated with play productions and theirdifficulties so he decided to focus more on his novels.