The Late Noel Knockwood


Senator Statement Senator Jane Cordy May 1st, 2014

Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I rise to pay tribute today to Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq elder Noel Knockwood, who passed away on April 10, at the age of 81.

Mr. Knockwood was the Mi'kmaq spiritual leader since 1974 and served as a keptin and spiritual leader for the Mi'kmaq Grand Council.

Born on the Shubenacadie Reserve in 1932, Mr. Knockwood attended the Shubenacadie Indian residential school. He became an outspoken critic of the residential school system and what he described as "cultural genocide." He was part of the class action lawsuit that won reparations for the residential school victims. Mr. Knockwood was honoured by Nova Scotia for his efforts with the province's Meritorious Medal for Human Rights in 1991.

Mr. Knockwood was a Korean War veteran who served over a year in the conflict with the Canadian military.

Beginning in the 1970s, Mr. Knockwood began a lifelong spiritual journey dedicating his life to Mi'kmaq culture and reintroducing many Mi'kmaqs and Nova Scotians to Mi'kmaq culture, teachings and the way of life. His efforts led the Province of Nova Scotia to recognize Native spirituality as a religion and, as a result, legally recognized traditional Mi'kmaq marriage ceremonies.

In 2002, he was also awarded an Aboriginal Achievement Award for his work in restoring Native spirituality in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Mr. Knockwood became a shining cultural light for many young Nova Scotian and New Brunswick Mi'kmaq people. He earned a BA from Saint Mary's University in Halifax as well as a diploma from the Coady institute at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. He also helped found the Transitional Year Program at Dalhousie University in Halifax for Native and Black students, and he helped design the school's Mi'kmaq Cultural History program.

Mr. Knockwood also served as Nova Scotia's first Aboriginal sergeant-at-arms for the Nova Scotia legislature from 2000 to 2005.

A spiritual mentor to many and a champion of Mi'kmaq culture, Mr. Knockwood left an indelible mark on Nova Scotia and Mi'kmaq culture. Noel Knockwood will be remembered for the many contributions he made, not only to the Mi'kmaq community but to all Nova Scotians. I would like to express my sympathy to his family today in the Senate of Canada.