There’s not a lot of traffic in Haines Junction, Yukon — but there are plenty of other reasons to watch the road reports that a local man’s been posting on YouTube.
Khâsha — born Steven Reid but now going by his traditional name — has been making short videos of himself sitting beside the highway in Haines Junction, commenting on what he sees, all in the Southern Tutchone language.
He calls it the “Dakwäkäda road report,” using the traditional Indigenous name for the area.
The videos are meant to be funny, but also informative.
“It’s just another avenue of spreading our language,” he said.
“It’s actually just great practice for me. I’m not a born speaker, I’m still learning, so, you know, I do my research prior to sitting on the side of the road.”
Khâsha will talk about the vehicles going by — transport trucks are referred to as “long metal horses” in Southern Tutchone — but also the weather, the people he sees, or the dog wandering by with a leash but no owner.
Subtitles on the videos are in English and Southern Tutchone.
He was inspired to start making them by a character in the movie Smoke Signals, who gave similar road reports. He says his brother, “another language warrior,” also gave him a push.
YouTube is an ideal platform, he says. He wanted something that was easily accessible to anyone, and visual.
“Audio is nice, but when you can see the mouth movements and you can hear the sounds, it’s another level of learning that’s just a little bit closer than audio alone.”
Khâsha says humour is also key.
“That’s the only way we can do it. I mean, learning shouldn’t be painful, it should make us laugh and then we’ll remember some things and want to come back for more,” he said.
“It’s a lot of fun just to sit and watch people. And I think people are starting to know what’s going on when I’m sitting there, so we’ll see how that plays out.”