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Joaqlin Estus
Indian Country Today

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The federal government is opening 27 million acres of land in allotments for Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, whose father served during the Vietnam War, met with Alaska veterans Thursday, April 21, in Anchorage. She thanked them for their service and their patriotism.

Then she made the announcement at a press conference that the Bureau of Land Management was opening 27 million acres of land for eligible Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans through the Veterans Land Allotment Program.

“As I said a year ago, we have a sacred obligation to America’s veterans,” Haaland said. “I know the sacrifices made by those who serve in our military, and I will not ignore a right to our Alaska Native Vietnam-era veteran.”

In a prepared statement she said, “I am grateful to the veterans we met with today for their patience as we have worked through the needed analyses, and to the BLM team that moved expeditiously to deliver on this promise.”

Vietnam veteran Nelson Angapak Sr., who is Yup’ik and a former vice president of the Alaska Federation of Natives, also spoke at the press conference.

“Earlier today, a group of veterans met with the Secretary of Interior Haaland who understood us more than any other Secretary of Interior that we ever had,” Angapak said.

“She understood where we were coming from. She understands who we are,” he said. “And we are grateful that through her efforts and the efforts of the Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management, the land base for our veterans has expanded. They so deserve that opportunity. They so deserve that opportunity. I'm grateful for that.”

Angapak served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam from 1969-1971. He said shortly after he returned from Vietnam he learned that the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act had revoked the Native allotment program.

Angapak said he has testified before every Congress since 1994 to get adequate lands opened to Vietnam-era veterans.

Earlier in the week, Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both Republicans, criticized the Biden administration’s handling of the program. They said an environmental assessment had unnecessarily delayed the transfer of lands, and a quicker land transfer process was available through revocation of public land orders. 

For now, the Bureau of Land Management is completing legal descriptions to open the lands for selection through Dec. 29, 2025.

The new act marks the third time federal lands have been offered to Native Vietnam veterans.

It also removes the requirement for use and occupancy of the lands applied for, freeing applicants to apply for available lands anywhere in the state. The heirs of deceased eligible Alaska Natives can also apply.

Because the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 revoked the Native Allotment Act, thousands of Vietnam-era veterans were not able to file for allotments while serving overseas.

On its website, the Bureau of Land Management said the Alaska Native Vietnam Veterans Allotment Act of 1998 (P.L. 105-276) authorized the department to provide a new 18-month filing period ending in January 2002 to qualifying Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans who, because of their active-duty service during the three years prior to the repeal of the 1906 Act, were unable to file a claim.

The Alaska Native Vietnam era veterans land allotment section of the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019, known as the Dingell Act, was enacted in Public Law 116-9, Sec. 1119. It allowed any Alaska Native Vietnam veteran who served during the period of Aug. 5, 1964, through Dec. 31, 1971 and did not previously receive a Native allotment to apply for up to 160 acres of federal land.

For more info
Additional information about the new allotments is available on the Bureau of Land Management’s program page.

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