04/11/2014 06:38 EDT | Updated 06/11/2014 05:59 EDT

Noel Knockwood, Mi'kmaq spiritual leader, dies at 81

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.

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

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.