The Rez Sisters opens on a late August day on the Wasaychigan Hill Indian Reserve (or as its residents refer to it, "Wasy") on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. Pelajia Patchnose is found nailing shingles to her roof, with the assistance of her sister, Philomena Moosetail. Pelajia's first line, "Philomena. I want to go to Toronto,'' reveals her desire to escape what she sees as her dull life in "plain, dusty, boring old Wasy." "Everyone here's crazy," she complains. "No jobs. Nothing to do but drink and screw each other's wives and husbands and forget about our Nanabush'' —who is also known as ' "The Trickster," a mythological spirit that observes (and sometimes enters into) the action of the play. After complaining more about the fact that there are no paved roads in Wasy, Philomena lifts her sister's spirits with her wit (and by falling off the roof). Annie Cook, their half-sister, arrives and the three talk of their beloved hobby: bingo. Eager to run to the post office, where a parcel awaits her, Annie leaves and the two remaining sisters talk of how the bingo games in Wasy "are getting smaller and smaller all the time."
The scene changes to Marie-Adele Starblanket's house (down the hill from Pelajia's), where she is throwing stones at Nanabush, disguised as a seagull. When Nanabush tells her "Astum [Come]," she replies, "I can't fly away. I have no wings. Yet." Her conversation is interrupted when her sister-in-law, Veronique St. Pierre, enters with her mentally disabled adopted daughter, Zhaboonigan Peterson. Veronique and Marie-Adele discuss a used car purchased by an acquaintance before moving onto a more serious topic: Marie-Adele's cancer. Veronique questions Marie-Adele about who will take care of her fourteen children after she "goes to the hospital"; Marie-Adele replies that her husband, Eugene, will carry this load. The topic shifts to the real motive of Veronique's visit, to tell Marie-Adele that she heard a rumor that "THE BIGGEST BINGO IN THE WORLD'' is coming to Toronto and to ask Marie-Adele if she wants to play. Annie arrives, learns of the upcoming bingo game, and all four of them walk together to the post office. On the way, Marie-Adele, Annie, and Veronique pause to tell the audience about their hopes for the upcoming game: Marie-Adele wants to buy an island where she can live with her family, Annie hopes to buy a complete country-music record library, and Veronique imagines herself cooking for everyone over a brand-new stove.
Arriving at the post office (which doubles as a general store), the women meet Emily Dictionary (Annie's sister and half-sister of all the others). Described as "one tough lady," Emily is an ex-biker who lived in California for years but has returned to Wasy. Instigated by only a few remarks, the women all begin a massive,...
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