CRAZY HORSE, S.D. - An illusion is something that you think it is, but it isn't - like a treaty.
Buddy Big Mountain uses an illusion to begin his act with that statement, a clear indication that comedy and highly-skilled manipulation with marionettes and puppets is yet to come.
Big Mountain puts his marionette family to work in a mini pow wow with a grass dancer, traditional male dancer, jingle dress, fancy shawl and fancy men's dancer while he explains the meaning of each dance to the audience; which on Aug. 12, was predominantly non-Indian.
Many of the references to Indian pow wows go over many people's heads, but he said it doesn't matter. "I expect it. It makes them think a little. People say to me after a show that they really learned something and some just say I was funny."
Big Mountain's skill as a ventriloquist is renowned through the United States, Canada, Germany and Japan. He will be the featured entertainer at an international ventriloquist's gathering in Frankfurt, Germany in December.
His friends - hand puppets, provide a discourse that to the knowledgeable keeps the laughter going. Within the songs and banter, stories of fry bread and 49ers ring true. For those who attempt to figure things out, Big Mountain said he hopes the thought process will continue.
The Big Mountain name is synonymous with entertainment. Buddy started performing with his family, dancing for audiences with his father and his brothers continue to do that. "We were the puppets; I am carrying on in a different way."
He said his first job with the marionettes was at a public school that would spend $150 for 12 dancers. Big Mountain said he would provide 13 and brought 12 marionettes. He said the principal was angry.
"I asked him if the kids were told there was an assembly, he said yes. So I offered to do the mini pow wow and if the kids didn't like it he wouldn't charged them anything. I haven't had to give away a performance yet, that way," he said.
He said that some dancers tell him that he had stolen their moves with his pow wow dancing marionettes. And he did; he goes to pow wows and watches. His dancer puppets will show an audience how the dance should actually be performed, historically.
Big Mountain and his wife Diana make all the marionettes and puppets. They are dressed in authentic regalia down to the exact detail.
Although Big Mountain is not in the entertainment business specifically for the money, between him and Diana they are making a living traveling the country. He does it to teach about the culture and also to let people know that Indian people are alive and thriving.
Adults may be treated to a show geared specifically for mature audiences, "not too bad, just some innuendo."
Young people may be treated to shows with anti-drug, alcohol, abuse and sexual abuse themes. "It's a comedy show, I don't preach to the kids."
Big Mountain has four children and seven grandchildren. None of his children are in the entertainment business, but he said he has hopes for some of his grandchildren. His children performed a magic show with him when they were young, but left to go their own way.
Born in New Jersey, Big Mountain is Mohawk, Welsh and English from his mother, Comanche and Apache. He went to school in Paris (he pauses before he adds), Tennessee and started puppetry in Wichita, Kan. while in college. He performed his first show at the Native American Club at Wichita State University.
"I built the show the night before I performed."
The music from his show comes from other American Indian singers and performers and he does not allow his show to be videotaped for that reason.
Big Mountain said he would like to perform the rest of his life. He made reference to Edgar Bergen, who performed his last show the night before he died. "I would like to do that."
Big Mountain can be seen quite frequently in Canada, at pow wows and in schools and at times in Las Vegas, where he makes his home. He can be contacted at Pony Mountain Productions, 8217 Carnation Dr. Buena Park, CA 90620 or by phone at (702) 379-2685.