Nova Scotia

'A great knowledge keeper': Mi'kmaw elder Murdena Marshall dies

Cape Breton Mi'kmaw elder and spiritual leader Murdena Marshall, 76, died Sunday night at her home in Eskasoni, N.S.

Marshall was devoted to promotion and preservation of Mi’kmaq culture, language, spirituality

Murdena Marshall, a Cape Breton Mi'kmaw elder, died on Sunday at age 76. (Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources)

Murdena Marshall, a Cape Breton Mi'kmaw elder and spiritual leader, has died.

Marshall, 76, died Sunday night at her home in Eskasoni First Nation. Her health had been failing for years.

Eskasoni Chief Leroy Denny said he is "overwhelmed" by the great loss to his community and nation.

"Murdena was a great knowledge keeper, a great teacher and taught so many and changed the minds of our own people, also to our allies and to the rest of Canadians, Nova Scotians," he said.

Marshall was devoted to promotion and preservation of Mi'kmaq culture, language, spirituality, education and science.

A lasting impact at Cape Breton University

She was considered a traditional knowledge expert.

After Marshall completed a master of education degree at Harvard University, she joined the faculty at Cape Breton University.

She played a key role in developing the university's Mi'kmaq studies program and was instrumental in helping create CBU's integrative science program, which enabled students to learn Indigenous and mainstream sciences.

Denny said he studied her work while he was in university to "better understand what our people went through."

She was married to elder Albert Marshall and was the mother of six children, and was also a grandmother and great-grandmother.

About the Author

Yvonne LeBlanc-Smith was born and raised in Cape Breton. She began her career in private radio in Sydney and has been with CBC as a reporter, early morning news editor and sometimes host since 1990.