Lisa Murkowski

Senator Lisa Murkowski and family at home in Anchorage, Alaska. December 2015.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs moved a step closer to issuing land allotments owed to eligible Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans when it received roughly 7 million personnel records from the Department of Veterans Affairs last week. The issuance of the land allotments is being mandated after the passage of a law that aims to provide an estimated 2,800 Alaska Native veterans the chance to receive land promised to them decades ago under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

Having already received roughly 1 million personnel records from the Department of Defense late last year, the BIA is now reviewing a total of eight million records to establish a list of Alaska Native veterans who are eligible to apply for land allotments.

The process was set in motion after the “John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act” was passed in May. In a letter published by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in April, Sen. Lisa Murkowski praised the passing of the law, which she noted was the result of “years of effort.”

“One of the provisions of which I am most proud will provide equity to Alaska Natives who served during the Vietnam War to finally receive their land allotments. Sponsored in the last Congress by Sen. Dan Sullivan, this provision will provide an estimated 2,800 veterans with a chance to receive the lands promised to them decades ago by the federal government,” Murkowski wrote. “Due to their service, many missed the application deadline imposed by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Previous programs have had a rejection rate of up to 75 percent, which led us to create a new program that will work better for everyone.”

After the BIA’s review of personnel records, the Bureau of Land Management will use the findings to notify those who are eligible to apply to receive their land allotments. Eligible individuals should begin receiving notifications and application material from the bureau by mail in late 2020 with a copy going to their BIA Realty Service Providers. Applicants will have five years from the date the regulations become effective to apply for an allotment.

Eligible individuals should ensure that their mailing addresses and contact information is up to date with their BIA Realty Service Office service provider and personal representative. Contact details can be found at on.doi.gov/2RAq05I

More information on the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act can be found on the BLM Alaska website on.doi.gov/3apR6Fw.

Contact staff writer Alistair Gardiner at 459-7575. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.