WASHINGTON, DC – The Alaska Congressional Delegation is continuing its efforts to provide equitable treatment to Alaska Native Vietnam Veterans by reintroducing the Alaska Native Veterans Land Allotment Equity Act. The legislation would amend the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act to allow approximately 2,800 Alaska Natives who served during the Vietnam era, and missed an earlier opportunity because of that service, to apply for their government-promised Native allotment.
“This has always been an issue of equity and fairness; about rectifying a wrong for our Alaska Native Vietnam Veterans who so proudly served this nation,” said Congressman Don Young. “This legislation would finally bring this issue to a close and give Alaska Native Vietnam veterans the opportunity to obtain lands promised to them under federal law. It’s a downright travesty that decades later, these honorable men and women are still waiting to receive what was promised to them. As I’ve said before, I will not rest until this longstanding inequity is resolved. I am both hopeful and optimistic – with a new administration and Secretary of Interior – this will be done in the 115th Congress.”
“We as a nation should honor our prior promises to our Alaska Native veterans, who showed a special kind of patriotism and service during the Vietnam era,” said Senator Dan Sullivan. “This bill seeks to cure a longstanding injustice for the Alaska Native men and women who left everything behind to serve when their nation called. With a new administration in the White House, and support from Secretary of Interior Zinke, I am hopeful that we can once and for all address this important issue.”
“We owe much to our Alaska Native veterans who risked their lives in service to our country during the Vietnam War,” Senator Lisa Murkowski said. “I am pleased to cosponsor this legislation with Sen. Sullivan and Rep. Young, which helps Congress fulfill its decades-old promise to provide these veterans with the land allotments they earned and rightfully deserve. Rest assured, I will not let our Alaska Native Vietnam veterans be forgotten as we work to make good on this long overdue commitment.”
“On behalf of the Alaska Native veterans of the Vietnam War and other veterans who served during the Vietnam Era, I want to take this opportunity to thank Alaska's Congressional Delegation for introducing legislation that would authorize the Alaska Native veterans of that era with the right to apply for Native allotments,” said Nelson Angapak, Alaska Native Vietnam Veteran and former Senior Vice President for the Alaska Federation of Natives. “Thank you and it is my humble hope that the 115th Congress will pass this bill; and that it will become law of the land! Thank you very much."
While serving during the Vietnam War era, many Alaska Native Veterans were unable to apply for land allotments promised by the federal government under the Native Allotment of 1906 before the process was ended by the passage of ANCSA. In 1998, Congress opened an application period for some of these veterans, but unfortunately only those who served from 1969–1971 were allowed to apply.
The Alaska Native Veterans Land Allotment Equity Act expands military service dates to coincide with the entire Vietnam conflict, which officially lasted from 1964-1975. The legislation would increase available land for selection by Alaska Native Veterans and reduce previous restrictions and occupancy requirements that prevented many veterans from receiving their allotment during the prior open season. Further, the bill includes minor policy improvements made during the 114th Congress, including a provision that requires the Department of Interior to coordinate with Alaska Native organizations to help streamline the implementation of the legislation and coordinate outreach to veterans.
H.R. 1867, introduced by Congressman Don Young, has been has been referred to the House Natural Resources Committee. S. 785, introduced by Senator Sullivan and cosponsored by Senator Murkowski, has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.