Palin's Poor Record on Alaskan Native Issues

I received this by e-mail last week from a lawyer. Feel free to check its accuracy, but it sounds legit to me and I'm passing it on.

1. Palin has attacked Alaska Native Subsistence Fishing

Perhaps no issue is of greater importance to Alaska Native peoples as the right to hunt and fish according to ancient customary and traditional practices, and to carry on the subsistence way of life for future generations. Governor Sarah Palin has consistently opposed those rights.

Once in office, Governor Palin decided to continue litigation that seeks to overturn every subsistence fishing determination the federal government has ever made in Alaska. (State of Alaska v. Norton, 3:05-cv-0158-HRH (D. Ak).) In pressing this case, Palin decided against using the Attorney General (which usually handles State litigation) and instead continued contracting with Senator Ted Stevens’ brother-in-law’s law firm (Birch, Horton, Bittner & Cherot).


The goal of Palin’s law suit is to invalidate all the subsistence fishing regulations the federal government has issued to date to protect Native fishing, and to force the courts instead to take over the roll of setting subsistence regulations. Palin’s law suit seeks to diminish subsistence fishing rights in order to expand sport and commercial fishing.

In May 2007, the federal court rejected the State’s main challenge, holding that Congress in 1980 had expressly granted the U.S. Interior and Agriculture Departments the authority to regulate and protect Native and rural subsistence fishing activities in Alaska. (Decision entered May 15, 2007 (Dkt. No. 110).)

Notwithstanding this ruling, Palin continues to argue in the litigation that the federal subsistence protections are too broad, and should be narrowed to exclude vast areas from subsistence fishing, in favor of sport and commercial fishing. Palin opposes subsistence protections in marine waters, on many of the lands that Natives selected under their 1971 land claims settlement with the state and federal governments, and in many of the rivers where Alaska Natives customarily fish. (Alaska Complaint at 15-18.) Palin also opposes subsistence fishing protections on Alaska Native federal allotments that were deeded to individuals purposely to foster Native subsistence activities. All these issues are now pending before the federal district court.

2. Palin has attacked Alaska Native Subsistence Hunting

Palin has also sought to invalidate critical determinations the Federal Subsistence Board has made regarding customary and traditional uses of game, specifically to take hunting opportunities away from Native subsistence villagers and thereby enhance sport hunting.

Palin’s attack here on subsistence has focused on the Ahtna Indian people in Chistochina. Although the federal district court has rejected Palin’s challenge, she has carried on an appeal that was argued in August 2008. (State of Alaska v. Fleagle, No. 07-35723 (9th Cir.).)

In both hunting and fishing matters, Palin has continued uninterrupted the policies initiated by the former Governor Frank Murkowski Administration, challenging hunting and fishing protections that Native people depend upon for their subsistence way of life in order to enhance sport fishing and hunting opportunities. Palin’s lawsuits are a direct attack on the core way of life of Native Tribes in rural Alaska.

3. Palin has attacked Alaska Tribal Sovereignty

Governor Palin opposes Alaska tribal sovereignty. Given past court rulings affirming the federally recognized tribal status of Alaska Native villages, Palin does not technically challenge that status. But Palin argues that Alaska Tribes have no authority to act as sovereigns, despite their recognition.

So extreme is Palin on tribal sovereignty issues that she has sought to block tribes from exercising any authority whatsoever even over the welfare of Native children, adhering to a 2004 legal opinion issued by the former Murkowski Administration that no such jurisdiction exists (except when a state court transfers a matter to a tribal court).

Both the state courts and the federal courts have struck down Palin’s policy of refusing to recognize the sovereign authority of Alaska Tribes to address issues involving Alaska Native children. Native Village of Tanana v. State of Alaska, 3AN-04-12194 CI (judgment entered Aug. 26, 2008) (Ak. Super. Ct.); Native Kaltag Tribal Council v. DHHS, No. 3:06-cv-00211-TMB (D. Ak.), pending on appeal No 08-35343 (9th Cir.)). Nonetheless, Palin’s policy of refusing to recognize Alaska tribal sovereignty remains unchanged.

4. Palin has attacked Alaska Native Languages

Palin has refused to accord proper respect to Alaska Native languages and voters by refusing to provide language assistance to Yup'ik speaking Alaska Native voters. As a result, Palin was just ordered by a special three-judge panel of federal judges to provide various forms of voter assistance to Yup'ik voters residing in southwest Alaska. Nick v. Bethel, No. 3:07-cv-0098-TMB (D. Ak.) (Order entered July 30, 2008).

Citing years of State neglect, Palin was ordered to provide trained poll workers who are bilingual in English and Yup'ik; sample ballots in written Yup'ik; a written Yup'ik glossary of election terms; consultation with local Tribes to ensure the accuracy of Yup'ik translations; a Yup'ik language coordinator; and pre-election and post-election reports to the court to track the State's efforts.

In sum, measured against some the rights that are most fundamental to Alaska Native Tribes – the subsistence way of life, tribal sovereignty and voting rights – Palin’s record is a failure.

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    This may not be... (5.00 / 3) (#1)
    by Thanin on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 01:30:59 AM EST
    super polarizing to people, but I think it does demonstrate a lack of respect for cultures that have been demonized and hounded for centuries.  So this may never make the big news, I do think its news worthy.  Im glad you posted this Jeralyn.

    Also... (5.00 / 0) (#3)
    by Thanin on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 02:13:14 AM EST
    To address some possible defense for the republicans, I realize mccains record on NA issues is actually good.  But I fervently believe Obama will be just as good - I mean how many presidential nominees have been adopted into tribes?  

    And Biden, from what Ive been able to google, has supported legislation to improve both drug prevention programs as well as alcohol abuse treatment plans.  So that's the top two people supporting NA issues, rather than one for and one actively working against.


    More than lack of respect for cultures (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by bluejane on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 02:04:35 AM EST
    (bad enough) but her actions seem to be motivated by commercial interests in favor of sporting and hunting industries in Alaska. Wish I had time to research accuracy of this article, even to know name of who wrote this and where it appeared. If true, would expect this to be an explosive story if it ever hits the MSM.

    PS: Isn't her hubby part-Eskimo? (none / 0) (#4)
    by bluejane on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 02:19:43 AM EST
    How would he allow this kind of treatment of indiginous Alaskans? Bizarre.

    Hes... (none / 0) (#5)
    by Thanin on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 02:33:50 AM EST
    anywhere between 1/4th to 1/64th Yup'ik (I cant get a definitive answer), and yeah Im not sure what his deal is.

    Ethnicity (none / 0) (#14)
    by Pianobuff on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 10:55:07 AM EST
    I had heard on several reports that the figure was 1/8, coming from his grandmother - unfortunately I don't have cites for you so I can't tell you where that came from.

    her husband's ethnicity is not the issue (none / 0) (#21)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 02:06:27 PM EST
    her record on native issues is the topic. There's no need for a debate on what percentage Native American he is. It's a distraction to the serious topic raised in the thread.

    Husband (none / 0) (#30)
    by greenriverkate on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 10:09:14 PM EST
    The federal law states you must be 1/4th blood to be registered as a Native. Some tribes register with less. She could use this as a political bat that she is all for Natives rights. Obviously she isn't but in Alaska it might go over big. Each tribe has it's own agreement with state and government for all their rights. All are sovereign nations but many have little reservations left to govern. It gets very confusing but she doesn't have the right to renegotiate a tribal treaty on hunting and fishing rights let alone sovereignty or language. I have read this report also, someplace else. Him being "Eskimo" is just for appearance.

    if this is true, (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by cpinva on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 05:15:41 AM EST
    it's disturbing on several levels, not least of which is the utter lack of respect accorded the cultures of the earlier *immigrant peoples, and their cultures.

    this harkens back to a dark period in the lower 48, and the treatment of the earlier immigrant peoples in those territories, by the subsequent immigrants. not a pretty example to follow.

    * i use that term intentionally, absent some compelling archeological proof to the contrary, every human on the continents of north and south america is an immigrant, there are no "indiginous peoples". some groups just immigrated earlier than others. prove me wrong.

    The genetic evidence (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Fabian on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 05:47:21 AM EST
    is that all NAs are descended largely from one tribe in Asia, with minor genetic contributions from other sources.

    I always find it amazing that one not very large group of humans immigrated into N America and then went on to adapt settle and flourish from the Arctic Circle to South America in climates ranging from prairies, woodlands, rain forests, high mountains and frozen tundra.  They did this all without the ability to work metal to make tools.

    It's a testament to the adaptability of humans.


    Three themes of governance ring out (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by scribe on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 09:49:52 AM EST
    from these actions:
    1.  As the other commenters have noted, there is a strong favoritism to commercial and sport hunting and fishing interests.  In Alaska, commercial hunting and fishing includes (to me at least) the rather substantial industry of sportsmen and women from the lower 48 and the rest of the world coming up there to hunt and fish.  Go look at how much a week there costs - it ain't cheap.

    2.  There is also a core level of disdain for the federal government, which is of a piece with the secessionist ideas the Alaska Independence Party (and similar loose parts rattling around) of which her husband was a long-time member and she allegedly so.  In office, she is putting those ideas and principles into practice;  a slow-motion revolt.

    3.  There is a level of racism/ethnocentrism involved, though I'm not quite sure how much.  But, more telling (to my eye, anyway) is that her approach is of a piece with her hardcore fundamentalist religiosity.  

    Remember, she not only subscribes to it, but proudly announced in her speech at church this past June, that God put her in the governor's chair, through the help of that witch-hunting Kenyan preacher praying over her.  It was a core principle of the evangelical Christian religions - Protestant and Catholic - during the 17th through early 20th centuries and the westward expansion, that part of the Christian duty was to civilize and save the savages for Christ.  

    Taking away subsistence hunting and fishing rights from the unChristianized, unsaved Alaskan natives is philosophically no different than having commercial hunters and the cavalry slaughter all the buffalo to force the Plains Indians onto reservations, where they could be saved for Christ by outlawing their native languages, custons, religions and - coincidentally - made a profit center for the indian agents who would feed them the white man's food and sell them the white man's clothes.  Similarly, taking away self-governance from the native "savages" would not only deprive them of their ability to say "no" to the indian agents, but would also facilitate commercial exploitation of the lands to which they were entitled.

    Think back, too, to the welcoming in Palin's Wasilla church for the Jews for Jesus, which we heard about early in this debacle.  The fundamental tenet of their practice was to make the message of "Convert, Accept Jesus" "inescapable" to the unconverted/unsaved.  In other words, they will ram it down your throat until you say "yes".  No different, in philosophy, from the way missionaries to the Indians practiced their evangelism, though they were able to use the positive method of starving out the unsaved rather than the negative of mobbing them.

    Moreover, this adherence to fundamentalist religiosity is a coherent theme in her governance.  You will all remember the brief uproar about charging Wasilla's rape victims for their rape kits, which was justified on the basis of the lie that "many" other towns were doing the same when in fact none were.  Palin's objection, it seems (and I read this on another responsible blog - IIRC FDL - but cannot place it just yet), was based not on the taking of investigative material from the victim, but on the presence in the rape kit of emergency contraception.  Palin's fundamentalism decries emergency contraception as a killing, since they believe it destroys a fertilized ovum which, in their belief system, is a human life.

    There you have it - when she says she doesn't let her religion govern her governance, she's lying again.

    leave her church and rape kits (none / 0) (#22)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 02:07:27 PM EST
    out of here and please stay on topic. It's native issues.

    Restless Natives (5.00 / 0) (#10)
    by squeaky on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 10:03:47 AM EST
    Looks like the other native Alaskan natives are also unhappy with Palin, contrary to what we have been hearing about her popularity back home..

    Alaska Women Reject Sarah Palin

    The biggest political rally in Alaska's history just took place in Anchorage - protesting Alaskan Governor and now candidate for U.S. Vice President Sarah Palin.

    The Alaska Women Reject Palin rally was to be held outside on the lawn in front of the Loussac Library in midtown Anchorage. Home made signs were encouraged, and the idea was to make a statement that Sarah Palin does not speak for all Alaska women, or men.


    o/t -- unless these are Native with a capital N (none / 0) (#27)
    by Cream City on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 06:19:28 PM EST
    Alaskan Americans.  I see nothing stating that -- although some may be, and if they were protesting her over Native issues, do you have a link for that?

    Native Americans in the West (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Christy1947 on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 10:09:11 AM EST
    have, until the sovreignty movement took off, been threated as second and third class citizens, who were supposed to vanish into the population under the Dawes Act and other provisions, but never did. Had the matter been publicized, the similarities with the treatment of AAs in the South would have been recognized, but it wasn't so it isn't. In most western places, when the cute feathers are put away and press goes home, the Native American communities are the poorest and most isolated populations, consistently, and with the poorest medical care (some in Arizona and New Mexico excluded). Random violence against Native Americans is still not uncommon at levels which would be unacceptable to posters here.  

    There are among Native Americans all sorts of internal issues (which I am ignoring for this comment), but the general hostility to the recognition of any 'rights' in Native Americans has been more or less constant in many states for a very long time. As a result of the 1971 statute and land settlements, the Native American and Inuit populations (not quite the same are the two) have recognized and occasionally enforceable rights to all sorts of lands including the ones in the way of her gas pipeline and which she left to Transcanada to work out, which were originally not of great interest to the white population. Now that they are, the white population in general is asserting its primacy. And that is the population which elected her and her predecessors. Until recently, as in other places with other groups, there was so little social dissent about this that statutory defense of the most recent invaders was not even necessary. After 1971, that changed. Part of the theory seems to be that they and the NA/Is are Alaskans in exactly the same way, and that therefore there is nothing a NA/I should have which her white constituents should not share equally. Nothing which may be withheld on ethnic grounds from her kind of Alaskans. Although the converse is not true.

    Hunting is a sportsman's issue, but fishing is a very large commercial deal, as it was the principal industry in Alaska which earned currency after the gold ran out in the Yukon Gold Rush of 1898 and before oil and gas were discovered. European-origin Alaskans survived that way. My grandfather fished there for decades, out of the Port of Seattle, and Ketchikan. My uncle Conrad died in Ketchikan one awful night while on one of the fishing trips. What this is about is that for decades, white folk up there assumed that it didn't matter what Native Americans/Inuits needed because they didn't run the place and had essentially no enforceable rights against abuses. No more.

    It is facially more dramatic in Alaska because there the land settlement was so recently done, while the various reservations in the lower 48 have existed for awhile, often whittled away at as whites found things on the reservations they wanted for themselves, water in dry areas for example, but the big battles here were before the Second World War, and are mostly forgotten by city people. Until the Native American Rights movement began to be heard in the seventies, and somebody discovered that NAs could make money on those reservations with casinos, there were only a few economically successful tribes, many in the Southeast.

    Between the land settlements and the sovreignty movement, they now literally own a large porportion of the state of Alaska, and are permitted to run it as they see fit, not just as the Republicans in Juneau decide for their own constituents. They are about 15% of the entire population, but because of racial issues, are treated as not really part of it and almost as the enemy.

    In some places like Arizona (Navaho, Hopi and others), and Colorado, there is a measure of mutual understanding and grudging respect, but in a lot of other places, no.

    I do reject one poster's comment that all humans in Alaska are immigrants, as a way of diminishing what the immigrants of 1898 and thereafter are trying to keep doing. If you have been in possession of the land and working and using it for ten thousand years before the first European showed up, probably a Russian by the way, you do have rights and it is not a 'relative' issue. If the 'relative' issue was pushed, there would be no place in the world other than a few spots in East African where any rights other than those of Europeans would be entitled to any priority at all. There are analogs here to lots of diverse culture issues within one set of borders created by empire in prior centuries, including good old Georgia, China with Uighurs and Tibetans, which are appropriate to consider.

    And this is partially also a game of numbers. If all the NA/Is who were in American in 1607 had their descendants standing here rather than being repeatedly decimated by diseases brought by Europeans, the last one of which I remember was what nearly wiped out Washington tribes and many others about 1910, owing to different immunity patterns, we would not be looking at the state with most NA/Is being Alaska at 15%, and would be dealing differently with all of this.

    It does seem to me (Full Disclosure, my father was half Interior Salish, and grew up with that language and not English as his first, although he died too young to teach much of that to me) that Palin's record on this is relevant since the US is a vastly multicultural country and she would have to have a rational record of good relations and working habits with her  non-European based residents to demonstrate she could do it for the larger number in the nation generally, which will be majority minority by 2050, and she doesn't have that. We would not tolerate a candidate caught using as to AAs or other lower 48 ethnically distinct groups the kind of terminology reportedly used by her about the NA/I residents of Alaska. This should be taken into account in evaluating her.

    As to McCain, if those here believe he has a great NA issues record, would such people kindly describe or post same.

    Mojo to Jeralyn for posting this.

    The article is interesting but... (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by DarielK on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 12:19:58 PM EST
    why are we pulling out all the stops to destroy Palin?  This reminds me so much of what the Republicans did to Clinton - and after 10 years of investigations and $70 million taxpayer dollars all they could come up with is that he lied about a sexual affair.  So much has come out about Palin in this smear campaign that I have just reached a point where I don't know what to believe and have basically given up reading most of it.

    I am not defending Palin.  If there are real issues that can be proven without a doubt, then they should be revealed.  If there are just a bunch of "this could be a real issue" without a lot of background and proof, then I think, as Democrats, we are better than that.

    Palin was good for the Republicans for the post-convention bump - but she is hardly the deciding factor in this election

    We are informing people about her record (none / 0) (#20)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 02:04:26 PM EST
    and position on issues. Sorry that isn't important to you. This thread is for a discussion of those issues, not for whether you approve of what topics I write about. I'm beyond tired of these comments, which end up hijacking the thread to other topics.

    Her husband - and children, of course - (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 01:28:22 PM EST
    are part NA. Tread lightly.

    further comments about her family (none / 0) (#23)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 02:08:05 PM EST
    will be deleted.

    It looks to me that Palin has merely (none / 0) (#8)
    by Green26 on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 07:39:12 AM EST
    continued the policies and lawsuits of the prior Governor, in the first two items.

    Many governors and attorney generals have disagreements over certain issues and sometimes clash with Native American interests.

    I don't know anything about the specifics of these items in Alaska. However, while interesting, my guess is that this writing was done by someone who supports Native interests. Often, it's important to read the "answer", and not just assume the "complaint" is the final word on the subject.

    And yes, McCain has a terrific record on supporting Native American interests.  

    He does, does he (5.00 / 0) (#13)
    by Dadler on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 10:35:31 AM EST
    Thank you... (5.00 / 0) (#15)
    by Thanin on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 11:07:21 AM EST
    for that link Dadler.  Im more than glad to have my illusion that mccain is pro NA issues.  Besides, for me, his history of not supporting MLK day kind of nullifies whatever minority positives he had anyway, and thats coming from a NA.

    Hmm... (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Thanin on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 11:09:10 AM EST
    I dont know if her just going along with stuff the other Governor does makes this ok.

    I don't understand.... (none / 0) (#12)
    by kdog on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 10:31:25 AM EST
    why does the right to hunt and fish for sustinence need to be codified at all?  Isn't it a natural right to eat?

    All states and the federal government (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by scribe on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 11:13:28 AM EST
    have fish and game laws which address which species may be hunted or fished, how, when, where and how many may be taken.  These enactments came about as a more-or-less comprehensive body of law toward the end of the 19th Century or beginning of the 20th, though there had been various fish and game regulations going back hundreds of years.  They are all an outgrowth of, and find their foundation in, the "public trust" doctrine.  This doctrine, in turn, states (speaking generally) that natural resources such as wildlife, water and air (all of which can and do cross property lines and are therefore unlike, say, mineral resources) are owned by all the people in trust, and that trust is to be administered by the government as trustee for the benefit of the people.  The "in trust" is an important concept, because that imposes a fiduciary duty upon the trustee to manage the trust property so as to increase it, preserve it, and not waste it.  The same applies to all resources on government-owned lands, of which Alaska has a lot.

    Subsistence hunting and fishing, on the other hand, know neither season nor bag limits.  After all, if you are hungry and living a subsistence lifestyle, the fact that it is May and hunting season is closed is unlikely to make much of an impact on your decision to shoot that game.  Subsistence hunting and fishing could, if not properly regulated, etc., extirpate the resources.  So, an accommodation in the law was reached to allow subsistence hunting and fishing subject to certain limitations and limited to certain native peoples.  Depending on the species pursued, sometimes they are required to use traditional methods - much less effective than modern hunting and fishing gear.  The accommodation was intended to allow continuance of the native subsistence lifestyle and simultaneously preserve the resource.  

    Thus, for example, the commercial and sport fishing seasons for salmon in a northwestern state might be closed and subsistence fishing allowed to a certain number of fish, because of the condition of the resource.  Or the sport season might have to wait until the subsistence fishermen got their limit.  And so on.  It's a place where science is, if not king, at least one of the loudest voices.

    What Palin is doing is tossing the existing accommodation resolving the issues, in favor of her ideology and religiosity.

    So, while it might be a natural right to eat, if the food sources have all been killed off, you're going to go hungry, too.


    Sorry :( (none / 0) (#24)
    by DarielK on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 02:11:41 PM EST
    I didn't mean to upset anything.  It is important to me.  It is just that so much is floating out there right now and it is so hard to sift through the mud to find the truth.

    From (none / 0) (#25)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 03:03:55 PM EST
    The document, titled "Sarah Palin's Record on Alaska Native and Tribal Issues," was partially written by Heather Kendall-Miller, an informal adviser to the Obama campaign in Alaska.

    She has personally known the senator from Illinois since their days attending Harvard Law School together. Her husband, lawyer Lloyd Miller, co-authored the report, which is based largely on many of the legal cases Kendall-Miller has argued against Palin and the Alaska state government.

    "It's really important to pop [Palin's] balloon," Kendall-Miller, a tribal member of the Native Village of Dillingham, told Indian Country Today.

    She said she is "very concerned" that Natives who might have voted for Obama could now be swayed by Palin's entrance into the race.

    "That's exactly why it was so important for us to get the document out. There was such an initial positive response [to Palin], even from Native people in Alaska."[...]

    Before Palin became McCain's running mate, many political observers had expected that Obama would do well with Indian voters, especially
    considering his strong outreach to tribes during the election thus far.

    In case it's not clear, (none / 0) (#26)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 03:07:22 PM EST
    The document, titled "Sarah Palin's Record on Alaska Native and Tribal Issues,"
    is the subject of this thread.

    Ah, a name I know -- she has issues (none / 0) (#28)
    by Cream City on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 06:31:32 PM EST
    with the work of a Native American hero in my state -- and many of the First People across the country: Ada Deer, in her work when she headed the BIA.  And for Bill Clinton.  

    That could suggest this is complicated not only by intratribal politics but also by the other sort.  Interesting.


    From That Site You Linked To (none / 0) (#29)
    by daring grace on Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 06:58:50 PM EST
    "Evon Peter, a former chief of the Neetsaii Gwich'in Tribe from Arctic Village, Alaska, has also made waves as a result of an essay he released on
    Sept. 8 slamming Palin's record. But Peter believes that Palin's record - and not her past pledges - should be the main focus.

    ""It's unfortunate that across America, our communities don't tend to dig deeper into the actual decisions that different leaders have made in their
    previous offices. ... My hope is that Native American people will be inspired to look into all candidates' track records on the tribal, state
    and national level.""

    Evon Peter says he will vote for Obama. But I can't see anything wrong with what he says about judging a politician's record and not their pledges.