Puppeteer brings anti-bullying message to Fort Smith

Puppeteer brings anti-bullying message to Fort Smith
Puppeteer and comedian Derric Starlight entertains youth at the Fort Smith Rec Centre.Photo: Maria Church.

Derric Starlight was bullied as a child for playing with puppets. Now a famous Canadian puppeteer, Starlight brought his knee-slapping puppet show to Fort Smith last week, with a message about bullying.

“Don’t let bullies tell you you cannot do it,” he shared with The Journal after his show in Fort Smith last week. “My mother always told me that if I finished school I would work in television, so I believed her and I kept up with it. Sure enough, when I got older and finished film school I became famous and started working in television.”

Starlight hails from the Tsuu T’ina Nation west of Calgary. For the past 17 years, he’s been traveling across Canada and the world with his unique, comedic puppet show and anti-bullying message.

“I was bullied when I was a kid for playing with these muppets, so I’m trying to prevent bullying on reservations across the country,” he said. “I’ve traveled all across Canada and been to every reservation – every single one.”

Puppeteer and comedian Derric Starlight entertains youth at the Fort Smith Rec Centre.

Photo: Maria Church

Puppeteer and comedian Derric Starlight entertains youth at the Fort Smith Rec Centre.

Best known for his original puppets from First Nations backgrounds, such as Jingle Dress Dancer, Chief the Warrior and Band Councillor Willie, Starlight is a master of voices and can mimic 275 different characters.

His show in Fort Smith also featured many puppets from The Muppets and Sesame Street, characters that influenced his own childhood, he said.

Starlight performed for students at Paul W. Kaeser (PWK) High School as well as a younger audience at the Rec Centre gym. While the performance for students included the anti-bullying message, the show for children later that day was tailored to younger humour.

Eleanor Buckley, 7, enjoys the show at the Fort Smith Rec Centre.

Photo: Maria Church

Eleanor Buckley, 7, enjoys the show at the Fort Smith Rec Centre.

When Chief the Warrior was introduced to the crowd, children sang along to a version of the classic nursery song “Clap Your Hands,” instead belting out “If you’re proud of who you are, clap your hands,” followed by, “If you’re proud of who you are, do a war cry!”

Starlight said the students at PWK were “ecstatic” to see his show.

“When you do schools, it’s like a rock concert. They get all riled up,” he said.

But more importantly, he was able to share his anti-bullying message with students.

“You should be safe at school. Tell your parents or your teachers if kids pick on you,” Starlight advised.

While his life goal was to make it on television, Starlight said it’s been interesting how his career has developed to take on the message of anti-bullying. “I didn’t know it was going to turn out this way, but it did,” he said.

To learn more about Starlight and his message, visit www.derricstarlight.com.

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