US government finalizes first land allotments under 2019 law

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The U.S. Department of Interior said the first two federal land allotments to Alaska Native Vietnam War-era veterans have been finalized.

Frank Nanooruk and Richard Boskoffsky received the first allotments under a 2019 law passed by Congress, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The allotments are east of Goodnews Bay in southwest Alaska, agency spokesperson Richard Packer said by email Friday.

The Interior Department said the allotments were finalized Thursday.

Under the 1906 Alaska Native Allotment Act, Alaska Natives were allowed to apply for up to 160 acres of land. Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s office has said that the program’s restrictions kept many from applying until the 1960s. There was a push to urge Alaska Natives to apply for lands if they had not already done so before a 1971 law took effect. But that period overlapped with the Vietnam War.

A 1998 federal law allowed veterans to apply for land but the provisions were seen as restrictive. The 2019 law lifted use and occupancy requirements that were part of prior laws and made lands available until late 2025, the Bureau of Land Management has said.

“We have a sacred obligation to America’s veterans,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.

She added: “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.”

U.S. Rep. Don Young, in a statement, said 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.”

“In the years ahead, I look forward to well-earned land finally being allotted to these brave Alaskans and remarkable Americans,” he said.

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