Nova Scotia is mourning the loss of a well-known Mi’kmaq elder and spiritual leader.

Noel Knockwood’s family says he suffered a massive stroke in his home Monday night. He passed away Thursday evening at the age of 81.

Knockwood was born on the Shubenacadie First Nation in 1932. He was a keptin of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council and served as the first Aboriginal sergeant-at-arms for the Nova Scotia legislature from 2000 to 2005.

"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," said Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil in a statement released Friday.

"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.”

Knockwood was a veteran of the Korean War and succeeded in having traditional Mi'kmaq wedding ceremonies officially recognized in Nova Scotia.

He was also affiliated with the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Center and Mi’kmaq Children’s Centre in Halifax.

In 2002, Knockwood was awarded a National Aboriginal Achievement Award for his contributions to culture, heritage and spirituality.