Mi’kmaq Spiritual Leader, Noel Knockwood, Dies at 81

A Mi’kmaq elder and spiritual leader who was a Korean War veteran and Nova Scotia’s first aboriginal Sergeant-at-Arms at the provincial legislature, Noel Knockwood, has died at the age of 81. The news about his death was confirmed by the family and posted after midnight on the Facebook page of Shubenacadie Band Chief Rufus Copage. The post said that “at the request of family. It is with great sadness to report that one of our Elders Noel Knockwood has just passed away.” According to his family, Knockwood suffered a massive stroke in his Hilden home early Monday night.

Knockwood spent his childhood studying in the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School, after which he was affiliated with the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre and Mi’kmaq Children’s Centre in Halifax for many years. He was a wise teacher who treated natives and non-natives alike. Later on, Knockwood went on to the post-secondary level and earned a B.A. from Saint Mary’s University in Halifax and a diploma from the Coady Institute at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish.

As a guest lecturer, Knockwood visited many universities and high schools to spread the word about cross-cultural understanding, human rights and other social issues. He was a role model who beat alcoholism, survived combat duty and survived the dark days of part of a childhood spent in Canada’s residential school system for aboriginal youngsters. He once said in 2010, that “the suffering of native students should be recorded as one of the most tragic stories of North American and religious history.”

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