Did you know that Alaskan Natives who served in the Vietnam era (and their heirs) are eligible for free land in Alaska?! I had no idea until I received this timely email from the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
If you are an Alaskan Native who served in the Vietnam war (or an heir of an eligible veteran), then you need to know about this program!
Who is eligible for free land in Alaska?
Thanks to the Alaska Native Veterans Program of 2019, eligible veterans can claim between 2.5 acres and 160 acres of federal land in Alaska!
The eligibility requirements for this program are as follows:
- You must be a Native veteran OR the heir of an eligible veteran
- You must have served in the Armed Forces between August 5, 1964, and December 31, 1971
- You can’t have already received an allotment of land previously.
What is the purpose of the Alaska Native Veterans Program of 2019?
This law was designed to fix a problem for eligible veterans who were not able to apply for their land when the opportunity was previously available.
Under the 1906 Alaska Native Allotment Act, Alaska Natives were allowed to apply for up to 160 acres (65 hectares) of land. There was a major publicity push just before the law changed in 1971, encouraging anyone who was eligible to claim their land immediately.
Unfortunately, many Alaska Natives who were eligible for this program were overseas fighting in the Vietnam War at the time. Thus, they did not have the opportunity to apply.
There was another brief opportunity to apply in 1998, but the application was not available for very long and many people did not know about it.
It is estimated that around 2,000 people may be eligible to claim free land in Alaska. The Bureau of Land Management also estimated that around 1/3 of the eligible veterans may have died, but their heirs may be able to claim this benefit.
How do these veterans claim free land in Alaska?
Applications are expected to open in late 2020. In the meantime, eligible veterans and their heirs can prepare by taking the following steps:
- Update your contact information with the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Realty Tribal Service Provider.
- Find your DD-214. If you do not have one, order a copy from the US Department of Veterans Affairs. If you’ve never filed a VA claim, you can obtain one from the National Personnel Records Center.
- Review the list of available lands.
- Read the rules and watch a recording of the virtual meetings about this program.
If needed, you should also select a personal representative.
What are the drawbacks of this program?
The Bureau of Land Management currently has 1.5 million acres of land available for these allotments. The properties are located in three distinct parts of Alaska: the Bering Glacier area (near Yakutat), Goodnews Bay (Western AK) and the Fortymile area (interior).
Many eligible veterans have complained that the properties are inaccessible and far from their ancestral lands. A considerable amount of the land is only accessible by boat, snowmobiles, snow machines or planes.
The land will be given with restricted titles, which means that the veterans will be unable to sell the land without approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.