Arsenio “Pastor” Credo and other Alaska Native veterans listen to a presentation Thursday afternoon how to apply for up to 160 acres of the more than 27 million acres of public land available to Alaska Native veterans who were unable to apply for their acres of in-state land due to serving during the Vietnam War. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Arsenio “Pastor” Credo and other Alaska Native veterans listen to a presentation Thursday afternoon how to apply for up to 160 acres of the more than 27 million acres of public land available to Alaska Native veterans who were unable to apply for their acres of in-state land due to serving during the Vietnam War. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Millions of acres are available for Vietnam-era Alaska Native veterans, but many in Southeast don’t want it

‘We want Southeast Alaska.’

Arsenio “Pastor” Credo was born in Juneau and he wants to die there, too.

As an Alaska Native, he was entitled to up to 160 acres of land in Alaska via the 1906 Alaska Native Allotment Act. But, Credo never got the chance to apply for his rightful land because he was off fighting in the Vietnam War, which was precluded following the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in 1971.

However, just this past August — more than 50 years later — the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced an order and made available more than 27 million acres of public land to Alaska Native veterans who were unable to apply for their acres of in-state land due to serving during the Vietnam War between 1964 and 1971. The announcement following a lengthy review after the passage of 2019 Dingell Act.

Of the more than 1,800 veterans across the state who are eligible to receive land, around 500 are from Southeast Alaska, according to Darrell Brown, veterans land specialist for Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.

For Credo — and for many veterans living in Southeast Alaska, there’s only one problem — Southeast Alaska land is nearly entirely excluded from the program.

“It’s for us, but it’s not Southeast — it’s all up north,” he said. “It’s not right — they know we live down here and were born here.”

The parcels are mostly in the Kobuk-Seward Peninsula, Ring of Fire, Bering Sea, Western Interior, and East Alaska planning areas, with a very small number of lots in Southeast Alaska north of Skagway and Haines.

On Thursday, veterans living in Juneau or Southeast Alaska were invited to an event that offered them more information on how to apply for and receive the available land. The event was co-hosted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.

Candy Grimes, the bureau’s Native Allotment coordinator, said she and other representatives came down from Anchorage intending to help as many Native veterans as possible get the resources they need to apply for the lands.

“Our goal is to have 100% applications,” she said.

However, among the 45 or so veterans who showed up for the event, there was general unhappiness about the lack of Southeast Alaska land.

“They would rather have landed in their homelands,” Grimes said.

Southeast Alaska Native veteran Cmdr. Wm. Ozzie Sheakley who attended the event agreed.

“It’s too far away, there’s nothing in Southeast Alaska — we want Southeast Alaska,” he said.

Sheakley said he’s been waiting for this land ever since returning from Vietnam. For the past 20 years, he was a part of the efforts to push for the order and include large portions of land in Southeast Alaska. As seen in the map of available land, getting Alaska Native veterans land was successful, but including Southeast parcels was not, and in order to now add Southeast Alaska land, it would require an amendment of the order.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management
A map shows land tracts where Alaska Native Vietnam veterans can apply for parcels under an allocation program by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The most common land parcels potentially available are shaded in light yellow. Areas shaded in light green, including the ones nearest Juneau, represent potentially available state selected land.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management A map shows land tracts where Alaska Native Vietnam veterans can apply for parcels under an allocation program by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The most common land parcels potentially available are shaded in light yellow. Areas shaded in light green, including the ones nearest Juneau, represent potentially available state selected land.

Sheakley and Credo said they don’t know if they’ll be around by then.

“I’m going to do it because it’s all there is,” Credo said. “I can’t wait — an amendment could take 20, 30 years and by then most of us will be dead.”

According to Jessie Archibald, senior staff attorney for Alaska Legal Services, legal representatives can apply for the land on behalf of already deceased veterans who were eligible for the lands, which is estimated to be 40% of veterans.

Eligible Legal representatives and veterans have until Dec. 29, 2025, to apply for the allotments. According to Grimes, once the application is accepted it takes around two years for the allotment to take place. So far, 253 applications have been received, and eight have been certified.

“It’s hard,” Sheakley said. He explained that despite his disappointment in the land offered, he’s still going to apply.

Sheakley said the situation reminded him of what happened to the Cherokee Nation after the Indian Removal Act, which was signed into law in 1830, forced the tribe away from their ancestral homeland and into a land unlike their own.

“It’s a bunch of land in the middle of nowhere, we don’t know anything about up north,” he said. “We want our homeland, where we come from.”

Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or 651-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

More in News

Council member James Baisden speaks in favor of an amendment to the City of Kenai’s budget that would add funds for construction of a veteran’s memorial column in the Kenai Cemetery during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai budget amendment allocates funds for veterans’ columbarium in cemetery expansion

A columbarium is an aboveground structure that houses cremated remains

Council member Alex Douthit speaks in favor of an amendment to the CIty of Kenai’s budget that would reduce funds allocated to the Storefront and Streetscape Improvement Program during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Funding reduced for City of Kenai’s storefront improvement grant program

Just over a year after the City of Kenai established its Storefront… Continue reading

Mount Redoubt can be seen across Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion file photo)
Hilcorp only bidder in Cook Inlet oil and gas lease sale

8 million acres were available for bidding in the sale, spread across Cook Inlet and the Alaska Peninsula region

Council member Phil Daniel speaks during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
City of Kenai approves budget

A draft of the document says that the city expects to bring in around $19.5 million in the next year, and spend $20.2 million

A sockeye salmon rests atop a cooler at the mouth of the Kasilof River on Monday, June 26, 2023, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
A sockeye salmon rests atop a cooler at the mouth of the Kasilof River on Monday, June 26, 2023, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kasilof River personal use setnet opening delayed

Low counts for Kenai River early-run king salmon motivate restriction

Ben Meyer, environmental scientist and water quality coordinator for the Kenai Watershed Forum, teaches children about young salmon freshly pulled from the Kenai River during the Kenai River Fair at Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 7, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai River Fair debuts with array of activities and education

Previously called the Kenai River Festival, the newly refocused fair featured booths and activities dedicated to education about the outdoors, wildlife and ecosystems

A sign welcomes visitors on July 7, 2021, in Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Seward Pride Alliance rallies after bomb threat displaces drag story hour

The event was able to continue after a delay and a fundraising effort has brought in more than $13,000

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
City of Kenai Public Works Director Scott Curtain; City of Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel; Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Peter Micciche; Sen. Lisa Murkowski; Col. Jeffrey Palazzini; Elaina Spraker; Adam Trombley; and Kenai City Manager Terry Eubank cut the ribbon to celebrate the start of work on the Kenai River Bluff Stabilization Project on the bluff above the Kenai River in Kenai on Monday.
‘The future is bright for the City of Kenai’

Kenai celebrates start of bluff stabilization project after developing for 40 years

A Kenai Peninsula Food Bank truck in the Food Bank parking lot on Aug. 4, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Peninsula Food Bank’s Spring Festival set for Friday

The event will feature a wide swath of vendors, including lots of nonprofits, who will be sharing information about their services

Most Read