ENR Approves Bill to Restore Equity for Alaska Native Vietnam Veterans

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee yesterday advanced S. 785, the Alaska Native Veterans Land Allotment Equity Act, out of committee by voice vote. The bill, sponsored by Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, both R-Alaska, would allow approximately 2,800 Alaska Natives who served during the Vietnam-era to apply for their Congressionally-promised Native allotment, after they missed their initial opportunity to do so because of their service.                                                   

“This is an important step in a process that has gone on for far too long. Our bill is needed to ensure that Alaska Native men and women who left home to serve our nation during the Vietnam War are finally able to receive their land allotments,” Murkowski said. “I appreciate my colleagues’ support in committee, and will work closely with Sen. Sullivan to move this bill through the Senate as soon as possible.” 

“Yesterday was a good day and we are one step closer to curing a longstanding injustice. Over the years, I have said that Alaska Natives possess a special kind of patriotism, serving at higher rates than any other ethnic group and stepping up during controversial times, such as the Vietnam era; and I am proud to say that yesterday, the Alaska Native Veterans Land Allotment Equity Act passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee,” Sullivan said. “This legislation would allow Alaska Native Vietnam Veterans the opportunity to apply for the native allotment they were denied because of their service to their country. As this legislation moves forward, I would like to personally thank the Alaska Native veterans for their service, Interior Secretary Zinke for pledging his support last year after personally meeting with a number of Alaska Native Veterans, and Chairwoman Murkowski for guiding this bill through her committee.” 

S. 785, as amended and reported by the committee, resolves a number of issues that impaired the success of the Alaska Native Veterans Act of 1998. Importantly, it establishes a separate program to allow Alaska Native veterans who served during the Vietnam War to apply for and receive an allotment of land in Alaska. The bill also provides a mechanism to identify lands that are available for selection and ensures that individuals will be able to use the land, including for subsistence. These changes will remedy inequities that Alaska Native Vietnam veterans have faced as a result of their service and unworkable federal laws that Congress previously passed to facilitate the allotments.  

Archived video, a full list of reported bills, and a rundown of the business meeting are available on the committee’s website.

Murkowski is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

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