November 17, 1995 Halifax Herald

Kathy Knockwood 1943 - 1995: great educator, true friend

In the latter part of February 1988, I received, in my capacity as Executive Director of the Confederacy of Mainland Micmacs, notice from Indian Affairs that it would transfer to the Confederacy, effective April 1, the responsibility for overseeing a post secondary education program on behalf of our six bands.

In preparation for the takeover, I put together an education director's job description and, with April 1 just a few weeks away, began a frantic search for a recruit with certain basic qualifications: The person must have a genuine interest in promoting Micmac education and an in-depth knowledge of the Native education program; must be a first class administrator, and must not be a yes-person but an intelligent, common-sense debater. Colour or ethnic origins was not a major factor.

In search of the right candidate, I made numerous calls across the country to individuals who might have filled the bill. Many declined an interview because they were not prepared to move to the Truro area, or I declined to interview them because of high salary demands. The deadline was looking me in the eye and no candidates.

Thus, when Kathy Knockwood walked into my office in late March of 1988, it was a Godsend! She had all the essentials listed for the position and, in spite of the top wages that a person with her excellent qualifications could demand, she was willing to work for the low salary my budget permitted. Plus, although she was not a Micmac, she was married to a member of the Shubenacadie Band and was instilled with an abiding interest in expanding education opportunities for all Natives.

Here are a few comments from previous employers, which made my decision to hire Kathy easy:

Velma Bourque, Academic Director, Universite du Quebec a Chicoutimi: “Her organization is exceptional, the content of courses most relevant and her relationships with the students is well balanced so as to stimulate and encourage...”

Helen A. Parker, Special Services Department, Yellowknife School District: “She has done an excellent job of setting up a new program which involves two schools...”

M..R. Fyten, of the same district: “Kathy has performed very well, not only as a very competent Remedial Reading Teacher, but also as a creative and insightful administrator...”

During her term as administrator of our post-secondary education program, Kathy's performance and production went well beyond the original goals I had set for the program's output; exceeding by far my fondest expectations. And, while setting up and managing an excellent program, she did an outstanding job of doing what I really wanted the Director to do - inspiring Micmacs to earn University degrees or certificates from other institutions of higher learning.

By 1992, just four years after Kathy came to the Confederacy, the number of students from our six Bands enrolled in institutions of higher learning had increased five-fold. And, because of Kathy's dedication to duty, coupled with an admirable ability to make the post-secondary education program produce an extra dividend, there are now scores of Micmacs holding degrees and certificates who otherwise would have been left out. What better testament to the outstanding performance of an individual can I make than that just said? Kathy was a caring and conscientious professional in the highest sense of the word!

During her five years with our organization, Kathy and others began to promote the idea of Micmacs taking over from Indian Affairs full responsibility for the education of our children. By late 1992, the seeds of the idea had developed into an organization called Mi’kmaq Education Authority. Kathy left the Confederacy for employment with the authority on June 30, 1993, where she held the position of associate Director at the time of her death.

Kathy Knockwood did selflessly, while employed with the Confederacy, put in hundreds of hours of overtime for which she was not paid - this I offer as a demonstration of her dedication to the cause. Her services were given freely and enthusiastically to all in need of an expert's advise. Here are comments from just two of her many friends:

Chief Frank Meuse, Bear River Band: "No one was more welcome in our community and our homes as was Kathy. Her sincerity towards her work, family and friends was second to none..."

Marion Paul, Director of Education, Eskasoni School Board: "She instilled in native students the desire to learn and succeed. Nothing was beyond reach - her vast knowledge of native education issues was inspiring to both students and colleagues. If a colleague needed a second opinion, she was always there... Her passing is a terrible loss to all of us. We've said good-bye to a great educator, but most of all to a true and well loved friend!"

Kathy's contribution to the Micmac education cause was outstanding and given from the heart! She was indeed a great educator and has left behind a legacy which will produce benefits for Micmacs for years to come. This shall be her monument!

To Kathy's husband Doug, children and family I wish to impart that we share in your grief and offer solace for the loss of a dearly beloved wife, mother and friend. May her eternal afterlife with the Great Spirit be filled with joy and peace!

Daniel N. Paul


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