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Through her daughter’s eyes

The journey of Pallas Scretching

GCW’s digital content editor Crystal Scretching relives her mother’s journey from the Navajo Indian Reservation to boarding school and eventually to Bay St. Louis.

Sunrises overlooking the Navajo Indian Reservation (Rez) shone upon herds of livestock, colorful desert land, and little houses with no electricity, no running water. When I hear my mother talk about her childhood years, I am both intrigued by the sound of unknown adventure — yet terrified by the harsh life she faced. I can imagine her journey…

TEARS FOR THE LITTLE GIRL

At age 4, Pallas Huskey watched as her mother and older siblings worked the land. I can see her playing with the sheep, learning how to herd them. I see her walking along the cornfield, taking trips to the windmill. Then I see this moment when she is suddenly whisked away from all that she has ever known, her family, her land, and the hardest part to swallow — her culture taken away.

My mother endured the cultural genocide that many Native American children experienced during that time. The federal government sent thousands of Native American children to attend boarding schools where they were forbidden to speak Native languages, made to renounce Native beliefs, and told to abandon their Native American identities.

“When I started school, I didn’t even know how to speak English,” my mother recalls. “We were considered backwards in our culture, that we needed to step away from that. That we needed to learn the English language. That we needed to go to a Protestant church or a Catholic church. That we had to step away from our own religious beliefs…that we needed to move forward.”

As she tells her story, she doesn’t even seem to recognize the depth and pain of those younger years. It was just life as normal. That may seem like a lifetime ago to her, but I still weep for that little girl who was told that her way of being was wrong, that she needed to rid herself of what she was taught, that she would have consequences for speaking her native tongue. It pains me to think of how alone she must have felt, surrounded by strangers, none affirming her goodness as Diné (Navajo people) or “Holy people.”

Listen to the full interview of Crystal Scretching and her mother, Pallas Scretching.

 

MY MOM, THE THRIVER

Pallas Huskey Scretching met her husband, William Scretching, a native of Bay St. Louis, in the Army in Wurzburg, Germany, in 1976.

What I admire about my mother most of all is her ability to persist. Something within her seemed to always push her forward. No matter what she endured, she had a conviction that there was something else out there for her. She describes it as a longing.

This curiosity followed her all the way through high school. With no financial grounding, she chose to enlist in the military as her vehicle to venture out. She was a little apprehensive yet very excited. She was stationed in Germany, and during this time she got to see the wonderous world she’d pondered.

I asked if she had been afraid to leave her family and pursue the unknown and her response helped me to understand that she had been on her own most of her life.

I remember times when my mom would braid my hair before a basketball game. I’d ask how she learned to braid so well. “We used to have to braid each other’s hair in boarding school,” she said. She became fiercely independent and grew to rely on herself.

“I thought I was going to be a single person my whole life and never have children,” she says. Little did she know, she would meet my father, also stationed in Germany, and shift into a different path.

“I have come to learn that sometimes things come into your life that would never come into your life if you don’t step beyond or follow that which is within you,” she says. By stepping out and following her inner pulling, she was gifted a life she never saw for herself.

Today, she will tell you all about her husband, two beautiful children, and adorable grandson. She talks about us with such pride. Family is what she treasures most. “It’s not ever anything that I thought I would have in my life. And that to me is greater than anything else because what’s important to me is family. I treasure the moments that I spend with my family. It makes my life complete,” she recalls childhood memories of being away from her own family nine months out of each year.

Pallas Scretching, 62, recently at the Blind Tiger in Bay St. Louis. She is living life to the fullest, not looking back.

Being able to create a life she couldn’t imagine for herself, I was curious about what my mother would say to that little Navajo girl traveling to boarding school for the first time. “I would tell her that there are a lot of things that will come into her life that will try to beat up that child that you are. But, you can’t allow that to change who you are right now. You have to stay with your heart open and accept the goodness. Let the goodness override all the hard things that’s going to come.”

My mother is most successful woman I know. Despite a difficult past, she has cultivated a life beyond her wildest dreams. She never allowed life to swallow her up. She pushed past fears and followed her intuition. When I now look at my mom, I do not cry for her; I am simply proud and inspired.

“Sometimes we go on this long journey and we come back to where we started. You see that young person, and you come back to that, when you start finding your truth. You find that child again. So, it’s coming back and really getting to know who God made you to be.”

 

Listen to the full interview of Crystal Scretching and her mother, Pallas Scretching.

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  1. Thank you for sharing your story. We are not alone in our struggles to maintain some type of identity and survive this cruel world. This story is such a inspiration of survival.

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