Blackfoot puppeteer delivers humorous, anti-bullying messages with Indigenous characters



DerRic Starlight is a Blackfoot puppeteer from the Tsuut’ina Nation near Calgary who pursued his dreams in a career.

“My characters are called the Nuppets,” he said.

“Jim Henson called his Muppets because they’re half puppets and half puppets. So my characters are natives and puppets, so they’re called the Nuppets.”

Starlight grew up watching The friendly giant and other television puppet shows.

“I thought that Sesame Street was downtown Calgary, ”he said.

One Christmas, he received Muppet characters as a gift. He learned to imitate their voices and made the same effort to create his own characters.

Starlight began writing when he was 14, attending Fairview School in southeast Calgary. He began acting in short films and television shows like North of 60, and performing puppet shows for community gatherings.

Blackfoot puppeteer spreads humor with Indigenous characters

DerRic Starlight is a Blackfoot puppeteer from the Tsuut’ina Nation near Calgary who pursued his dreams in a career. 1:13

At 17, he went to Vancouver Film School for professional training. Now, Starlight hosts shows in casinos, conferences, special events and full-time schools, with shows with humor and anti-bullying messages.

In July, he spent three weeks in Los Angeles learning the Jim Henson technique during a puppeteer training initiative for various artists.

DerRic plays with Naw-Naw, one of his characters from Treaty 7 Nuppet. (Submitted by DerRic Starlight)

Carol Mason, Starlight’s mother, is a Blood Tribe fashion designer from southern Alberta. She said she had always supported her son’s career choices, even though she sometimes wondered if the puppeteers would foot the bills.

She makes outfits for her characters.

“It’s interesting when you go into their development,” she said.

“There are details of what this puppet should look like and it was cute when he did Buffy St. Marie with long black hair, it had to be silky black hair.”

She also appreciates that her characters “come from real life people”.

“As Niitsitapi we like to laugh at ourselves or always joke around.”

Characters based on his relatives have created some of his best-known Nuppets, including Granny Nuppet. Naw-Naw, a puppet character of a young native, wears a colorful bracelet around his wrists representing all the nations that are part of Treaty 7 and aims to be a Facebook star.

Puppeteers at Puppet Jam, a workshop held at DerRic Starlight’s Edmonton residence. (Submitted by DerRic Starlight)

Hal Eagletail of the Tsuut’ina Nation is an educator and powwow master of ceremonies in round dances. Starlight once surprised Eagletail with a puppet character of him. The performance elicited a positive response from children in the audience and from Eagletail as well.

“I’m easy going and love aboriginal comedy, especially when it imitated my famous one-liner, ‘Let’s rock this joint’,” he said.

“He has certainly become a lot better and professional at making his puppets. When you learn from the best, it reflects his abilities.”



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