A respected Mi’kmaw elder who overcame adversity in his life so he could help and empower others was one of five people who received the 2016 Order of Nova Scotia on Wednesday.
Freeman Douglas Knockwood, 86, from Indian Brook First Nation, N.S. was awarded Nova Scotia’s highest honour during a ceremony at Province House in Halifax.
Knockwood, who goes by his middle name, said he was “spellbound” when he first learned that he would receive the Order of Nova Scotia.
“I never thought that I would ever accomplish, you know, the things that I’ve accomplished,” Knockwood said. “And this, I guess, is the top of the cake,” he said.
“Each and everyone of the people in my community that I had a close association with had to do with where I am today,” Knockwood said.
“Because if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have been able to build my life’s roadmap,” he said.
Knockwood overcame homelessness and alcoholism
Knockwood, who attended the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School, had to relearn the Mi’kmaw language and culture after his father removed him from the school and brought him home. He served in the Canadian Armed Forces where he contracted tuberculosis and lost a lung.
Knockwood used his experience of overcoming homelessness and alcoholism to help others across Canada suffering from addictions. While he lived in the Northwest Territories, he helped set up programs for Indigenous people to help combat addictions. He also worked in the corrections system to help set up programs for Indigenous inmates.
“Our people, a lot of them were incarcerated,” Knockwood explained. “They thought they never had a chance.”
Knockwood’s family, including his son Glenn Knockwood, were in attendance for the Order of Nova Scotia ceremony.
“I was very emotional in a positive way because my heart was very, it was singing,” Glenn Knockwood said.
“Sometimes, my Dad can be humble to a fault so it’s nice to have him recognized for these things and have many people be like, ‘Yes, you deserve this,’ because, you know, he’s very humble.”
Because of his father’s work in various Indigenous communities in the region, Glenn Knockwood said they’re always bumping into someone who knows his father.
“So, wherever we go, people know his name, they know who he is because he’s just so, he’s such a people person and he’s so easy to approach and has so much experience,” Glenn Knockwood said.
Meanwhile, Knockwood has co-written a book about his life which will is expected to be available in the spring of 2017.
“I’ve met so many wonderful people over the years,” Knockwood said. “I hope that never stops.”