Edith Linklater to receive posthumous degree
“She was a hero in my eyes,” says Don Shackel of his student Edith Linklater. “She had a way of working with kids with special needs that was truly amazing.”
Shackel is an instructor in the Faculty of Education and a consultant for First Nations schools, as well as director of clinical services with the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre (MFNERC). He worked with Linklater for more than 20 years in and around Nelson House in Northern Manitoba, where she was an educational assistant.
He says: “I used to joke with her, asking her, ‘Edith, when are you going to get your degree? You are already so good with kids.’”
Linklater passed away last month, only a matter of weeks shy of graduating at Fall Convocation 2018. She will be recognized posthumously with her Post-Baccalaureate Degree in Education, specializing in special inclusive education, which she earned while battling the ravages of cancer.
Her niece Angela Levasseur, also convocating this fall, notes: “She used to sit in class in extreme pain and not take her pain medication until class was over because she wanted to be alert during the lecture. We would beg her not to do this but she wouldn’t listen.”
“No one ever told Edith Linklater what to do,” she adds.
A Residential School Survivor, Linklater was a proud and lifelong member of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation in Nelson House, Manitoba. She had spent 18 years as a speech and language paraprofessional at OK School in Nisichawayasi, working diligently for the Nisichawayasi Nehetho Culture and Education Authority for over 20 years.
A tireless advocate of education, Linklater somehow found time to obtain a degree in native studies (BA/07) and a certificate in inclusive studies (CertEd/08).
In her eulogy for her aunt, Levasseur said: “Edith’s passion for inclusive special education came from her lifelong experiences of raising many children with a variety of special gifts and exceptionalities. Edith was an amazing single mother and grandmother who raised her daughter and her grandson along with many of her nieces, nephews and countless foster children. She has a heart bigger than this world and was known to many as ‘Mama Eeeks’ or ‘Auntie Eeeks.’”
Shackel fondly recalls: “It was almost surreal to see her ability to engage with kids that no one else could reach. She showed them unconditional love and taught me so much about caring for others. After she passed, more than 35 people in her cohort sat in a circle and shared memories of her tutoring them, working with them and learning with them all.”
Levasseur noted: “Edith Linklater was an exceptional human being, and a strong, traditional woman who was proud of her Nehetho culture, language and ceremonies. She was truly a gift from the Creator for all whose lives she touched, those she taught, her family and all those whom were blessed enough to call her ‘Mom.’”
Towards the end of her life, Linklater was celebrated with a graduation ceremony in her hospital room, surrounded by friends and family. Wearing her gown and mortarboard, representatives of MFNERC presented her with a certificate of her accomplishment. The flag at the U of M will be lowered in honour of Linklater on Oct. 17.
Edith Linklater passed away on September 8, 2018, just 39 days before Fall Convocation 2018 at the University of Manitoba. Her sisters Florence and Anna-May Linklater will be accepting her parchment, and there will be an empty seat among the graduands where she would have been sitting.
An amazing woman who, based on the story, was filled with love, compassion and dedication. It would have been an honour to know her. Thank you for sharing.
I wish I had known her. I do not have experience with indigenous students but much with special needs students with a big heart for them and appreciate hearing about Edith.