Hundreds gather in Old Crow for Joe Linklater's funeral

People filled a school gym Friday to pay tribute to the former Vuntut Gwitchin chief who died suddenly last weekend.

Former Vuntut Gwitchin chief died last Sunday at 54

Close to 300 people filled the gym at Chief Zzeh Gittlit school on Friday afternoon for the memorial service. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

The community of Old Crow, Yukon, grew significantly on Friday as people gathered to pay tribute to former Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Chief Joe Linklater, who died suddenly last weekend.

Linklater, 54, was chief from 1998 to 2010, and again from 2012 to 2014. He most recently served as the First Nation's executive director in Old Crow.

Much of the small town — population 221 — was shut down all week to mourn the former chief.

Many people flew to the community on Friday by chartered plane, from Whitehorse. Others also came from Inuvik, Aklavik, and Fort McPherson, N.W.T. 

A funeral procession of community members led from church to the school. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

A funeral procession led from the church to Chief Zzeh Gittlit school, where the memorial was held in the gym. Close to 300 people filled the room, singing hymns in Gwich'in.

Bruce Charlie, the current chief of the First Nation, said Linklater's death has had an impact on the whole community.

The former chief was remembered at the funeral as someone who dedicated his life to his community and people, and was a champion of education for young people.

Another former chief, Robert Bruce, said he'll remember Linklater for his work to raise awareness of climate change in the North, and also his work on economic development for the community.

Bruce recalled how Linklater would say, "We've got to keep moving forward. We can't stop here."

The funeral was to be followed by a community feast. A moose killed earlier this week was donated for the event.

With files from Jane Sponagle