Native veterans get land allotments, 50 years after initial deadline passed

BLM held a ceremony in Anchorage to mark the conveyance of land allotments to two Native veterans on Thursday. (BLM via Facebook)

Two Alaska Native veterans who served during the Vietnam War received land conveyances Thursday from the federal government.

They are Richard Boskoffsky and Frank Nanooruk. Their allotments of up to 160 acres apiece are east of Goodnews Bay, in Southwest Alaska.

They are the first to receive land from the Bureau of Land Management since Congress changed the rules in 2019 to make it easier for vets to qualify.

Both men participated in a conveyance ceremony in Anchorage, a BLM spokeswoman said. Boskoffsky attended in person.

Native allotments were a way that the federal government put land in the hands of individuals. In Alaska, the program was discontinued with the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. Congress has repeatedly re-opened the application period to help veterans who missed the deadline because they were out of state serving their country.

“We have a sacred obligation to America’s veterans,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in an emailed statement. “I know the sacrifices made by those who serve in our military, and we are committed to ensuring the rights of our Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans.”

She said Interior will move quickly so that veterans can select the lands they’re owed, from an expansive area.

In 2019, Congress eliminated the requirement that vets show they used or occupied the land they wanted. In theory, that allowed people to select lands anywhere in the state, but BLM had only limited areas available.

The Interior Department contacted more than 1,400 vets and their families to let them know about the new rules. Nearly 130 applications were sent in. Veterans can continue to apply through 2025.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.

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