Saskatoon’s Indigenous community is mourning the loss of a respected elder after Walter Linklater died at home Sunday at the age of 79.
His son Michael, the leader of Saskatoon’s 3X3 basketball team, announced the passing on his Facebook page.
“My dad Walter Linklater peacefully started his journey back to the spirit world,” Michael wrote.
“He was in his home surrounded by many family members in song and prayer as he left. It was a very beautiful and tough day for our family.”
Linklater was born in Fort Frances, Ont., and was taken at the age of five to a residential school where he spent 12 years.
According to an obituary, he hit “bottom” after struggling with alcohol and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder for a time, but sought sobriety and eventually met his future wife, Maria, while teaching at Thunderchild First Nation.
He and Maria ended up running a foster home where they cared for over 350 children.
Linklater was a teacher for decades after earning his teaching certificate from Moose Jaw Teachers College, educating at several Indigenous schools and colleges over the years.
His son told 650 CKOM he took joy in imparting lessons on younger generations.
“The work that he did was to really bring people together,” Michael said.
“To help them see each other’s ways and understand we all have differences, but to respect one another.”
Michael added he’ll always remember how committed his father was to the community.
“I remember (my mother and father) getting calls in the middle of the night to go and offer prayers for a man with no family who was in the hospital,” he said.
“He was a man who always had a smile, who was very gentle and caring.”
In recent years, Linklater has offered prayers at the beginning of community events and blessed new mayors and police chiefs at swearing-in ceremonies.
He also worked with the city on the north commuter parkway bridge naming committee, which chose Chief Mistawasis as its namesake.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations offered their condolences to the family on Tuesday.
In a statement, chief Bobby Cameron said Linklater was a “mentor, knowledge keeper and friend” with expertise in language, culture and treaty rights.
“He will be missed dearly but the traditional knowledge and teachings he shared with everyone will be remembered for generations,” Cameron wrote.
A wake is being held for Linklater at Charles Red Hawk Elementary School on Whitecap Dakota First Nation starting 4 p.m. Tuesday.
A funeral will be held at the same location at 2 p.m. Wednesday.