The community of Old Crow, Yukon is in shock, after long-time Vuntut Gwitchin leader Joe Linklater’s death this past weekend.
Leaders from the Gwich’in Nation and Council of Yukon First Nations confirm Linklater passed in his sleep Saturday night and was found deceased in his home on Sunday.
“He was one of the strongest leaders I have known and one of the best speakers and go getters who got things done. It was an honour to have worked along side him in various forums with Gwich’in Council International and Arctic Council. He always treated me with respect and I enjoyed learning from him and also the many stories he would share with me of my late grandmother Ellen and Auntie Lydia whom he loved as much as they loved him,” said Gwich’in Tribal Council President Bobbi Jo Greenland-Morgan early Monday.
Linklater served over 5 terms as chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin in Old Crow Yukon, first elected in 1998 and retiring from politics in 2015.
“I’m still in shock and can’t believe it’s really true. I’ve been tearing up off and on. The last time I saw him he made us laugh so much my stomach hurt. That was pure Joe. His smile lit up his entire face and whatever room he walked into. It was an honour to have worked along side of him so many years later,” said Kwanlun Dun Chief Doris Bill on Sunday.
Linklater also served as chair of Gwich’in Council International, one of the permanent participants of the Arctic Council.
Vuntut elder Steven Frost says Linklater was 54 years old.
“We’re just in shock, he was so young and had lots of work left on his plate, but I guess that will pass to somebody else now,” added Frost.
Linklater’s family have gathered in Old Crow, and a funeral and community potlatch is scheduled to take place on Friday.