JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has proposed an expansion of lands available for selection by Alaska Native Vietnam War-era veterans who are entitled to allotments.
Tom Heinlein, acting state director for the land agency in Alaska, on Thursday recommended opening about 27 million acres of land for allotment selections by eligible veterans. Currently, about 1.2 million acres are available. Concerns have been raised that some of the currently available lands are difficult to access or outside veterans' cultural homelands.
Heinlein said the next step is to provide detailed land descriptions to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. It would be up to Haaland to sign and issue an opening order for land selections, he said.
The plan is to get her that information in the coming weeks, Heinlein said. He called the matter a “super high priority'' for Haaland.
Haaland visited with veterans this week during her ongoing trip to Alaska, her first to the state as secretary. “We have a sacred obligation to America's veterans,” she said in a statement, adding that she “will not ignore land allotments owed to our Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans.''
Under the 1906 Alaska Native Allotment Act, Alaska Natives were allowed to apply for up to 160 acres of land. Many Alaska Natives were unaware of this program, in large part due to communication hurdles, such as language barriers, according to the land management agency.
There were efforts to urge Alaska Natives to apply for lands if they hadn't already done so before a 1971 law took effect; that period overlapped with the Vietnam War. A 1998 federal law allowed veterans to apply for land, but the program was seen by some as restrictive.
A 2019 law lifted use and occupancy restrictions, the land agency has said. The application period extends to late 2025.
There are roughly 2,000 eligible individuals but several hundred for whom the agency is looking for heirs or addresses, said Lesli Ellis-Wouters, an agency spokesperson in Alaska. Of those eligible, 162 have made selections and eight have had land conveyed to them, she said.
Nelson Angapak Sr., who appeared at a news conference with Haaland in Anchorage on Thursday, said Friday that he hadn't seen the documents or maps yet. But he said if the land base from which veterans may apply is expanded, he sees it as a “step in the right direction.''
U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, an Alaska Republican, has expressed concern with the pace of the process so far and with the federal government's approach.
Chad Padgett, a former state director for the Bureau of Land Management, is currently the state director for Sullivan's office. Padgett, in a statement Friday, said that by “changing the process and attempting to open the lands just for veteran allotments (and excluding the state of Alaska and Native Corporations who also are allotted land under federal law), the Department of the Interior is promising land that they legally cannot.''
The plan would likely be challenged in court, he said.
The land management agency falls under the Interior Department.
BOSTON (AP) — Harvard University is vowing to spend $100 million to research and atone for its extensive ties with slavery, the school's president announced Tuesday, with plans to identify and support direct descendants of dozens of enslaved people who labored at the Ivy League campus.
President Lawrence Bacow announced the funding as Harvard released a new report detailing many ways the college benefited from slavery and perpetrated racial inequality.
The report, commissioned by Bacow, found that Harvard's faculty, staff and leaders enslaved more than 70 Black and Native American people from the school's founding in 1636 to 1783. For decades after, it added, scholars at Harvard continued to promote concepts that fueled ideas of white supremacy.
In a campus message, Bacow said many will find the report “disturbing and shocking,'' and he acknowledged that the school “perpetuated practices that were profoundly immoral.''
“Consequently, I believe we bear a moral responsibility to do what we can to address the persistent corrosive effects of those historical practices on individuals, on Harvard, and on our society,'' he wrote.
Alongside its findings, the 130-page report includes recommendations that Bacow endorsed. The university will create a new $100 million fund to carry out the work, which include building stronger relationships with historically Black colleges and expanding education in underserved areas.
It also called on Harvard to identify the direct descendants of enslaved people and engage them through dialogue and educational support.
“Through such efforts, these descendants can recover their histories, tell their stories, and pursue empowering knowledge,'' the report said.
Harvard is among a growing number of U.S. universities working to acknowledge and reckon with their historical ties to slavery.
Harvard began its work 2016 when former President Drew Gilpin Faust acknowledged that the school was “directly complicit in America's system of racial bondage'' and created a committee to study the topic. Bacow commissioned the new report in 2019, building on that work.
“The Harvard that I have known, while far from perfect, has always tried to be better — to bring our lived experience ever closer to our high ideals,'' Bacow wrote. “In releasing this report and committing ourselves to following through on its recommendations, we continue a long tradition of embracing the challenges before us.''
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Enoch Kelly Haney, a Native American artist, Seminole Nation chief and Oklahoma state lawmaker, has died at age 81.
Haney's death was announced Saturday by Brian Palmer, assistant chief of the Seminole Nation. A cause of death was not immediately released.
“With a heavy heart, the Seminole Nation woke to the news of the passing of Chief Kelly Haney. An inspiration to many, an accomplished artist, his work with the State and later as Chief highlighted his career, but his greatest achievement is that of family. Keep his family in prayer and may they find comfort in knowing the Seminole Nation and Indian Country mourns his loss,'' Palmer said in a statement on Facebook.
In a tweet on Saturday, Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt said Haney's “contributions to our state are mighty.''
Haney, who had most recently lived in Norman, grew up in Seminole. His grandfather was the chief of the Seminole Tribe in the 1940s.
A Democrat, Haney was a Methodist minister prior to entering politics in 1978 as co-chair of then-Lt. Gov. George Nigh's first of four successful campaigns for governor.
Haney served stints in the state House and Senate from 1980-2002 and was chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee from 1994-2002.
He ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2002 and was elected principal chief of the Seminole Nation in 2005. His 17-foot sculpture “The Guardian,'' a towering statue of a Native American, was placed atop the state Capitol dome in 2002.
In a 2014 interview with The Oklahoman, Haney said his art was grounded in his heritage.
“My grandfather and father were great storytellers, so I have that ability to tell stories, about native people and their history and so forth. So I guess in one sense I'm still the keeper of the traditions,'' Haney said.