TRURO - With one of his traditional peace pipes and an eagle feather to accompany him, Mi’kmaq elder and spiritual leader Noel Raymond Knockwood was sent off on his final, eternal journey on Tuesday.
A funeral for respected Mi'Kmaq elder Noel Knockwood was held in Truro on Tuesday. SUMITTED PHOTO
Family, friends, veterans and political acquaintances packed the Colchester Community Funeral Home to say goodbye to a man who was revered by aboriginal and non-aboriginal people alike for his service to country and his culturally pioneering ways.
Knockwood, who was born in Shubenacadie on July 18, 1932, died April 10 at age 81 at the Colchester East Hants Health Centre after suffering a massive stroke earlier that week.
“It was very moving,” said nephew Alan Knockwood who along with Earl Sack conducted the traditional pipe ceremony at the funeral.
“Very simple, very understated as he wanted. He went out very quietly and very tastefully.”
A Korean War veteran, Knockwood was remembered in a pre-service memorial by fellow veterans and legion members, along with members of the Grand Council and Nova Scotia Lt. Governor J.J. Grant, who placed poppies at his coffin.
“And everybody was very moved by the very simple yet elegant service for him,” Alan Knockwood said. “It was formal, yet informal. It was just very nice.”
Alan Knockwood said tributes and family well wishes to his uncle flowed in from across the country and the service, also attended by native chiefs and RCMP members, was filled with lots of traditional prayers and kind words.
“Everybody was really touched by him. I think we did right by him,” he said. “The pipe that he used daily, we put that away and a year from his death we will have a feast for him and that pipe will be passed on to either his son or his grandson who is going to carry on that tradition.”
Among his many accomplishments, Knockwood is known for successfully lobbying the provincial government to change the Solemnization of Marriage Act so that traditional Mi'kmaq marriages could become legal under Nova Scotia law.
Throughout his lifetime, he was credited with many accomplishments, including for his work in restoring Native Spirituality in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, for which he received an Aboriginal Achievement Award. He was the founder of the transitional year program for native and black students at Dalhousie University in Halifax as well as being credited with designing the Mi'kmaq Cultural History program at the post secondary institution, which now graduates native professionals every year.
In 1991, Knockwood received the Meritorious Award for Human Rights from the province for his many accomplishments up to that point and since 1974 he had been known for his deep native and spiritual beliefs and leadership.
A veteran of the Canadian military, Knockwood was also awarded the United Nations Medal, the Korean War Medal and the Canadian Voluntary Service Medal, as well as being honoured by the National Aboriginal Veterans Association.
He has also served as an addiction counselor and as special advisor for Corrections Canada.
Interment was scheduled for Tuesday evening in Indian Brook.