Interior Department opens 27 million acres for Alaska Native Vietnam veteran land allotments

A man in a camouflage jacket speaks from behind a lectern
Alaska Native Vietnam War veteran Nelson Angapak speaks at a press conference at the BLM-Alaska offices in Anchorage on April 21, 2022. (Photo by Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

The Interior Department announced Thursday that it would open up 27 million acres of federal land for land allotments for Alaska Native Vietnam War veterans.

The allotment issue stretches back to 1906, when Congress passed a law allowing Alaska Natives to claim up to 160 acres of land. The program ended in 1971 when Congress passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

Native advocates and Alaska’s congressional delegation have tried for years to re-open the selection process for veterans who missed out on the allotment program before it was repealed.

“Prior to the repeal, there was a concerted effort to notify Alaska veterans, or rather Alaska Natives of their allotment right,” Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning said Thursday. “However, this outreach happened to take place during the Vietnam War, when so many Alaska Natives were away serving our country.”

In 2019, Alaska’s congressional delegation pushed Congress to pass a law allowing allotments for Vietnam-era Alaska Native veterans and their heirs. It was the second time the selection period was reopened. Congress tried to address the problem in 1998, but the law they passed had restrictions that resulted in few applications. This time, Congress decided that veterans don’t have to show they used or even visited the region of the land they select.

The Trump administration made 1.2 million acres of federal land available for the program.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, a daughter of a Vietnam veteran and the nation’s first Indigenous Interior secretary, says the expansion of the program is part of delivering on a promise.

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

Veteran Nelson Angapak applauded Haaland for her outreach to the state’s Native Vietnam vets.

“She understood where we were coming from,” Angapak said. “She understands who we are. And we’re grateful that through her efforts and the efforts of the Department of Interior and Bureau of Land Management, the land base for our veterans has expanded.”

Eligible veterans have until December 29, 2025 to select lands for allotments.

Alaska Public Media

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