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Noel Knockwood, a Mi'kmaq spiritual leader, has died. (Nova Scotia Legislature)

Noel Knockwood, a spiritual leader and major force in protecting Mi’kmaq culture, has died. He was 81.

The death was confirmed by Chief Rufus Copage of the Shubenacadie band.

"At the request of family, it is with great sadness to report that one of our Elders, Noel Knockwood, has just passed away," Copage wrote on Facebook.

Copage wrote that a wake will be held at 130 Fern Drive in Millbrook at some point.

During his life Knockwood played a key role in protecting Mi’kmaq culture and history. He was a veteran of the Korean War, a member of the Mi'kmaq Grand Council and served as Sergeant-at-Arms of the Nova Scotia Legislature from 2000 to 2005.

In 2002 he was given a National Aboriginal Achievement Award for his dedication to Mi'kmaq heritage and spirituality.

He suffered a stroke on Monday and was not expected to recover.

On Friday, the Nova Scotia legislature held a moment of silence. Premier Stephen McNeil said Knockwood was a leader who shared his knowledge of Mi'kmaq culture with Nova Scotians.

"Noel Knockwood was a pillar of his community who touched the lives of many Nova Scotians with his wisdom, compassion and commitment to building a society that practices inclusion and respect of Mi'kmaq heritage and culture," McNeil said in a statement.

"He made history in so many ways by quietly and passionately sharing his deep belief in Mi'kmaq spirituality and serving his country with distinction in a time of war."

Earlier this week Stephen Augustine, a hereditary chief on the Mi’kmaq Grand Council, said Knockwood was one of the first to try and pry Mi’kmaq culture out from under the Catholic church.

"He was a very devout, spiritual man, looking towards his own traditions for guidance and helping him maintain his integrity as a Mi’kmaq person and a spiritual leader," Augustine said.