MISSOULA – After a nationwide search, the University of Montana has hired alum Courtney Little Axe to lead its on-campus effort to repatriate Native American Indigenous ancestral remains and cultural items.
Little Axe will serve in the newly created position of Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) repatriation coordinator and collections manager. In this role, Little Axe will work with tribal preservation officers and University employees to repatriate artifacts and other items back to respective Native American Tribes.
“I have dedicated much of my adult life to repatriation and Indigenizing heritage collection care,” Little Axe said. “I am thrilled to be back in Montana to help lay the foundation of the repatriation program to carry UM into the future.”
Little Axe grew up on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation and in Little Axe/Tecumseh, Oklahoma. She is Northern Cheyenne, Absentee Shawnee and Seminole, and has degrees from Haskell Indian Nations University and UM.
Prior to returning to Missoula, Little Axe worked as an intern in the UM Anthropological Curation Facility and was selected as a Native American fellow at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts.
Her career also includes serving as the repatriation assistant to the NAGPRA Coordinator for the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles, California.
Little Axe brings extensive experience to the position that includes creating procedures to work directly with tribes and assisting tribes with protocols for handling cultural materials.
NAGPRA was signed into law in 1990 and requires public institutions to repatriate Native American remains, objects and artifacts to origin tribes. UM has been working closely with regional tribal preservation officers to comply with NAGPRA and work through the repatriation process.
In April, UM hosted a Heritage Collections Board meeting on campus. This regularly scheduled meeting brings together tribal preservation officers from across the region and officials from UM to work through the repatriation process.