Probably few people know who Squanto was, but he figures heavily in our Thanksgiving history. His story is so profound that the Wall Street Journal is quoted as saying,
“His story is astonishing, even raising profound questions about God’s role in American history”.
It seemed a miracle when this Patuxet American Indian came walking out of the wilderness near Plymouth Colony speaking perfect English, introduced to them by the sachem, or head chief of the northeast Amercian tribes. This astounding young man then went on to teach the Pilgrims how to plant maize the native way. It was because of Squanto that these early settlers survived.
Born around 15 November 1585 in a village in the Wampanoag Confederacy, now Plymouth Bay, this exceptional Early American Indian would cross the Atlantic six times. Captured and sold into slavery, he and others captured with him, became celebrities among London’s elite.
Returning to Plymouth in 1614 with John Smith, he was on his way to his village when he was again captured with the object of being sold into slavery in Spain. He and his native companions were to be sold for £20 each when they were secretly whisked away by Franciscan Monks and hidden.
It was during his time with the Franciscans that he learned about Christ and became a Christian. It was also during these years that Squanto (native name “Tisquantum” ) received a very well-rounded education, rivaling many in Europe.
But as much as Squanto loved his Franciscan friends, he longed for home. The Franciscans smuggled him out on a ship bound for London. After several more years with a shipbuilder there, Squanto finally made it home in 1619 aboard a ship on a John Smith expedition. only to find that his village had been wiped out by sickness, thought to be smallpox or plague. And not only his own village, but all of his people. The Patuxet, and many of the Wampanoag Confederacy of tribes, were simply gone.
In spite of his many hardships, in spite of his many betrayals by Europeans and members of his extended tribe, in spite of his unrequited longing for his own lost people, he had returned to America speaking perfect English and with knowledge none of those early natives could ever have imagined. He was well traveled and became an interpreter and guide for the colonists.
This village boy touched the lives of so many famous people of that early era that his history reads like a Who’s Who of that time. And one thing that cannot be disputed, is that without him, American history would be a different story entirely. Brave, intelligent Squanto saved the Plymouth Colony during that first hard year, and taught them how to take care of themselves as they clung tenaciously to the edge of this big, bold wilderness called America.
So when the County Agent in our little town in Georgia came into the newspaper office one day and told me this story, I was astonished when he pinned me with the Squanto insignia and told me I was now an honorary member after the order of Squanto.
I had always admired this agent, who had that position for many years, because he genuinely cared about the people of the county, and cared that they could possibly prosper by his knowledge. I edited and covered many of his stories for the paper because they all had to do with good advice on farming and other elements of the land. And he, in turn, became an avid follower of all my articles, mostly about people and their lives; their burdens and their successes.
I took this honorary gesture to mean that he saw in me a fellow sojourner who cared about people’s lives — their burdens and successes — and drew me into that circle. This small, unheralded distinction didn’t make the papers or anyone’s must-see list. But of all the honors I have ever received, that Squanto pin means the most.
Happy Thanksgiving. God raised up a native man out of the wilderness, educated him, sent him across the world, and brought him back for His purpose. Sadly, Squanto lost his people, but gained a nation. America.
For further reading and viewing
Haven’t seen this, but it’s by National Geographic. Looks interesting and I plan to check it out.