Program allows some Alaska Native Vietnam vets to get land

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This undated photo shows Stewy Carlo during his Army service days during the Vietnam War. Carlo died in a car accident in 1975, but his family will apply for an allotment of 160 acres of government-owned land in Alaska under a new program that will allow Alaska Native Vietnam veterans or their heirs to apply for land that they might have missed out on in earlier programs because of their service. (Photo provided by Seeyaa Charpentier via AP)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Stewy Carlo had a short life, but he lived every moment. While serving in the Army, he bought a 1951 Mercedes and motored around Europe. After his service years, he roamed South America where he developed a love of photography, and then later turned heads while driving an exotic Maserati to a construction job back home in Alaska.

Carlo, a member of the Koyukon Athabascan tribe, was a math whiz from Fairbanks who quit college in 1967 to volunteer for the Army, to serve in Vietnam. There, he was an aircraft controller who “brought a lot of crippled aircraft in,” said his brother, Wally Carlo of Fairbanks.

Stewy would be an Alaska Native leader today if he had hadn’t been killed in a head-on collision while driving the Maserati in 1975, his brother said.

Wally Carlo intends to honor his brother’s legacy by applying for an allotment of 160 acres (65 hectares) of land in Alaska owned by the federal government.

Alaska Natives were allowed to apply for 160 acres (65 hectares) of land under the 1906 Alaska Native Allotment Act. Before a new law went into effect in 1971, there was a big advertising push to urge Alaska Natives to claim title if they hadn’t already done so.

That coincided with the Vietnam War, when many Alaska Natives fighting the war probably didn’t hear the plea. In 1998, another act allowed the veterans to apply for their land, but both Alaska Natives and Congress felt the window was too short to apply and an occupancy requirement wasn’t fair.

Last year, Congress passed the Dingell Act, expanding the window to apply for land and removing the occupancy provision.

“It’s something that’s really near and dear to our hearts to make sure this program’s a success because we know that folks didn’t have that opportunity,” said Chad Padgett, the Bureau of Land Management’s Alaska director.