What was the plight of the native Indian as represented by Rita Joe in "The Ecstacy of Rita Joe"?
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The play recounts the story of a young Indian woman who moves to the city but finds she has no place with either the white man or with her own people. Not feeling at home on the reservation nor in the disparaging atmosphere of the city, she ends up in court under charges of vagrancy and prostitution, and becomes more and more trapped in an unforgiving downward spiral of violence and cultural destruction. Rita Joe is a symbol of the struggle of the Native Canadian Indians.
She moves to the city, where the pavements make her feet hurt, and gets a job in a tire store, where she is sexually harassed. She experiences love in the uncongenial surroundings of a graveyard. She sees an Indian mother giving away her children in order to survive. Rita is repeatedly arrested for vagrancy, shoplifting, drunkenness, assault, and prostitution, and receives no help from her patronizing white Teacher, from an unsympathetic white Priest, or from social services, in the form of Mr. Homer of the Indian Centre. There seems to be no way out offered either by the traditional values of her father or by the radicalism of her Native Canadian lover Jaimie Paul. Finally, a gang of rapists violate her and murder both her and Jaimie Paul.
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