INTERIOR DEPARTMENT FINALIZES FIRST FEDERAL LAND ALLOTMENTS TO ALASKA NATIVE VIETNAM-ERA VETERANS
Posted & Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN
November 13, 2021
“We have a sacred obligation to America’s veterans. I know the sacrifices made by those who serve in our military, and we are committed to ensuring the rights of our Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans,” said Secretary Deb Haaland, whose father served during the Vietnam War.
Haaland said,“The Department will continue to move forward expeditiously so that Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans are able to select the land allotments they are owed, with an expansive selection area.”
The Alaska Native Vietnam Era Veterans Land Allotment Program was established by the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019. Through this program, the Bureau of Land Management can provide eligible individuals the opportunity to select an allotment of up to 160 acres from vacant, unappropriated, and unreserved federal lands in Alaska or lands selected by the state or Native corporations, if that entity agrees to relinquish that portion of their selection. This represents the third time that federally managed land has been offered to Alaska Native Vietnam veterans, who did not have access to land allotments while serving during the Vietnam War.
The BLM has worked with the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, as well as Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs to identify eligible veterans and their families. To date, over 1,400 veterans and families have been contacted to apply, with almost 130 applications received. Each application can involve hours of consultation with the applicant by BLM staff, followed by weeks or more of researching files and adjudication. Allotments can be selected through December 29, 2025.
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) issued the following statement yesterday after the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced it has finalized the first federal land allotments under the Alaska Native Vietnam-era Veteran Land Allotment Program. Murkowski worked with Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Congressman Don Young (R-AK), as well as Alaskan champions such as Nelson Angapak, Sr., to establish the new allotments program through her omnibus public lands bill in 2019.
“We worked hard to enact this program, and after a rocky start in this administration, I’m pleased the Department is making these allotments to our Native Veterans,” said Senator Murkowski. “This is a small sign of progress, but nowhere near enough. It remains imperative that Interior assist all eligible individuals to fairly select and access lands near where they actually live. Secretary Haaland can help make millions of additional acres of land available for allotments by reconsidering the indefinite pause it placed on the last administration’s Public Land Orders. It’s long past time for these veterans and their families to have the lands they deserve, and I will continue to push DOI to allow for that without delay.”
Murkowski has consistently urged the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to fulfill its decades-overdue promise to eligible veterans and their families while making additional lands available to them for selection. This could be accomplished by lifting outdated Public Land Orders (PLOs), not postponing the revocation of PLOs already scheduled to be lifted, or by making a small percentage of National Wildlife Refuge System lands in Alaska available for selection.
In a prepared statement Congressman Don Young (R-AK) wrote, “Alaska Native Vietnam Veterans put their lives on the line for our nation, and for too long, the federal government fell shamefully short of making good on the promises of land allotments made to them. I am very proud that with the tireless support of Alaska Native advocates and the Alaska Delegation, we were finally able to rectify this injustice.”
Young said, “Yesterday [November 04, 2021], it was my great honor to join the BLM as the first land allotments were finalized and signed. This has been a long time coming, and I encourage eligible veterans to submit interest to the BLM as soon as they can. I am grateful to Senators Murkowski and Sullivan for their hard work and partnership on this critical issue. I want to especially thank Nelson Angapak, whose dogged advocacy and commitment to his fellow Alaska Native Vietnam veterans helped make this possible. In the years ahead, I look forward to well-earned land finally being allotted to these brave Alaskans and remarkable Americans.”
“Thursday’s [November 04, 2021] announcement granting Native Vietnam Veterans the land they were promised over 50 years ago is long overdue,” said Alaska State Senator Josh Revak.
Revak said, “As Alaskans and Americans, we owe these veterans far more than a debt of gratitude for the blood, sweat and tears they’ve given to this country – we owe them the land that was promised. And while we may not be able to turn back the clock and make these veterans whole, in the immortal words of Dr. King, ‘the time is always right to do what's right.’ I’d like to thank Congressman Young for his strong advocacy on this issue, as well as our federal agencies for taking action.”
The program existed for 65 years before it was repealed in 1971 with the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). ANCSA granted large land allotments to newly formed Native Corporations who then assumed the responsibility of granting land allocations to their individual members as the organizations saw fit.
It would take another ten years to settle all the pending land claims made prior to ANCSA, but the federal application period for individual Alaska Natives to apply ended in December 1971 with ANCSA’s passage.
During the Vietnam War, 2,800 Alaska Natives served in the military - a higher rate per capita than any other group. Since the conflict did not end until 1973, both voluntary and conscripted service members were unable to apply for land before the deadline. Multiple attempts were made to get these native veterans their lands, but the federal government delayed at every opportunity. Decades passed, as native veterans were dying.
The BLM has worked with the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, as well as Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs to identify eligible veterans and their families. To date, over 1,400 veterans and families have been contacted to apply, with almost 130 applications received. Each application can involve hours of consultation with the applicant by BLM staff, followed by weeks or more of researching files and adjudication.
Lands are available for selection through December 29, 2025. For more information on the Alaska Native Vietnam Era Veterans Land Allotment Program and how to submit interest, visit the BLM's program page.?
Download application, click here. Application period runs Dec. 28, 2020 through Dec. 29, 2025.