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Outreach Intensifies to Alaska Native Veterans Eligible for Allotments

Calista reaching out to ensure Elders and their heirs don’t miss out

Storyknife, July/August 2020 edition

Hundreds of Calista Corporation Elders who served during the Vietnam War era and did not receive a Native allotment due to their service will soon be able to apply for a 160-acre parcel of federal land in Alaska.

The heirs of deceased eligible veterans also may be able to apply through a personal representative appointed by the Alaska State Court System.

“Using our current address database, the Calista Shareholder Services Department is mailing all of the living veterans and it is also beginning the process to reach out to heirs of the deceased veterans.”

Thom Leonard, Director of Corporate Communications and Shareholder Services

BLM Alaska legal assistant Laura Andrewyuk labels and fills envelopes with letters notifying Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans that they are eligible to apply for up to 160 acres of federal land in Alaska. Mailing began July 7, 2020.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has already sent letters to 92 Vietnam War-era veterans or their next of kin in the Calista Region, notifying them of their eligibility. Thirty-seven of the 92 are known to be deceased. Letters to additional eligible veterans or next of kin are continuing to roll out this summer.

The application period is expected to begin in fall 2020 and end in 2025. Not many federal lands are available yet in the Calista Region, or even other parts of Alaska, from which to select a parcel. The BLM is seeking to make more lands available over time. 

These simple facts summarize a very complex process that has been rolling out ever since Congress passed the Dingell Act in 2019 establishing this allotment program.

SENSE OF URGENCY

This allotment program is limited to Alaska Native veterans who served between August 5, 1964 and December 31, 1971, and did not receive an allotment under previous legislation.

The sense of urgency is increasing because the program is expected to launch soon, and some eligible Alaska Native veterans or their heirs might experience challenges with the application process.

For instance, eligible veterans could miss out because of a wrong mailing address or their heirs could miss out because a court appointed representative had not been selected.

How do I update my contact information?

Anyone who thinks they might be eligible for this program is asked to update their contact information with their BIA Real Estate Tribal Service provider. Service providers for the Calista Region are listed here.

Where can I find more information and maps of available lands?

All program details including Q&A are available on the BLM Alaska Native Veteran Program of 2019 website.

CALISTA ADVOCACY, OUTREACH TO SHAREHOLDERS

Calista Corporation strongly encourages eligible Shareholders to apply and has been advocating on their behalf during the program development phase.

“Calista has provided input since the early stages, and we continue to provide our input and support,” says Tisha Kuhns, Calista Vice President of Land and Natural Resources.

For example, Calista advocated for greater flexibility with paperwork requirements to accommodate Shareholders who live in remote rural areas.

To help ensure no eligible Shareholders miss out on the opportunity to apply, Calista is also starting a mailing campaign.

Sample BLM Letter to eligible veterans or their heirs.

“Using our current address database, the Calista Shareholder Services Department is mailing all of the living veterans and it is also beginning the process to reach out to heirs of the deceased veterans,” says Thom Leonard, Director of Corporate Communications and Shareholder Services.

Calista is basing its outreach on a list of nearly 300 Calista Shareholders (including deceased Elders) so far determined to be eligible for this program, provided by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. The list of eligible individuals will likely grow because 1,200 additional names of potentially eligible Alaska Native Vietnam veterans were still being reviewed for discharge status in late June.

Calista is mailing a BIA letter that explains the allotment program criteria and projected timeline. (BLM is also sending letters directly to individual veterans and next of kin, formally notifying them of their eligibility.)

“This process allowed us to keep our Shareholder contact information confidential, and not shared with any outside agencies or organizations,” Leonard says.