Alaska editorial: Late, but right

This editorial first appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:

It’s better late than never to do right by Alaska’s Native veterans.

Congressman Don Young has introduced the Alaska Native Veterans Land Allotment Equity Act. It would amend the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act to allow about 2,800 Natives who served in Vietnam to reapply for their Native allotment. They missed an earlier opportunity because they were in the armed services during the war.

“This is an issue of what is right and what is wrong,” says Young. “My bill will finally provide a chance for Alaskan Native Vietnam veterans to obtain land promised to them under ANCSA. It’s a shame that decades later, these honorable men and women are still waiting to receive what’s been promised to them.”

Current obstacles to the allotments include:

• These vets can apply only if they served on active duty from 1969 to 1971, even though the war started in 1964 and ended in 1975.

• The vets must prove they used the land in a continuous and independent manner, exclusive of others, for five or more years. This wasn’t required in the Native allotment act. It also wasn’t required of other Native applicants.

It seems appropriate that Native veterans who participated in the earliest or final years of the Vietnam War be included in participation of the land allotment equity act, and that they be treated like all other Natives as spelled out in the act.

Veterans should be treated at least as well — Native or not — as other Americans. Certainly, they shouldn’t be penalized for taking time away from their families and careers to serve this nation.

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