Thursday, November 22, 2012

As We Celebrate Thanksgiving...

I’m no historian and this is not intended to be humorous but I do cheer for underdogs and I respect the will to survive, but most of all, I admire those who are willing to forgive the wrongdoings of others and share their precious experience, strength and hope.

Tisquantum was born a Patuxet Indian in the late 1500’s and known as Squanto. When he was a young man, he was kidnapped by Thomas Hunt, one of John Smith’s lieutenants, and sold to Spain along with other slaves (20 pounds a piece) along with fish and corn.

Local friars discovered them and took the natives in order to teach them the Christian faith. Squanto studied hard and then convinced the friars to let him try to get home. He did reach London but his plans fell through and he was made part of an Indian Exhibit on a London stage. He worked as a servant and then for a shipbuilder and learned the English language along the way.

By the time he located a ship captain who would agree to take him home, twelve years had passed. The captain was John Smith. When he returned home, there was no trace of his family or friends. They had all been struck with a great sickness, most likely smallpox or leptospirosis. Native Americans had no natural immunity to European infectious diseases.  Everyone he knew and loved had died. He was the last one remaining of his tribe.

Squanto finally settled with Pilgrims at the site of his former village, which the English named Plymouth. He showed the Pilgrims how to build warm houses. Then, taught them when and where to plant. He showed them how to plant and use fish for fertilizer to grow corn faster. He taught the women how to cook the corn. He acted as an interpreter, guide, and gave advice on bargaining with the natives. Without him, the pilgrims would never have survived another season. In fact, half of them had already died in the harsh winter weather.

Squanto was captured by Wampanoag natives and it was feared he had been killed. Myles Standish led a ten-man team of settlers to avenge him. Squanto was found alive and well. Welcomed back by the Pilgrims at Plymouth, he continued his vital role as assistant to the colony.

Although he worked at alliances, Squanto ended up being distrusted by both the English and the Wampanoag. The Wampanoag’s assigned, Hobamok (his name meant mischievous) to watch over Squanto and act as a second representative.

On his way back from a meeting to repair damaged relations between Wampanoag and Pilgrims, Squanto fell sick. Fever ravaged him and he began bleeding from the nose. Some historians have speculated that he had been poisoned. Squanto was buried in an unmarked grave.

On a lighter note, peace between the two groups lasted for another fifty years.

So as we sit today, over filling our bellies with food that doesn’t even resemble a feast nibbled on by the settlers, we give thanks to those who persevered, withstood unending hardships and endured to give us what we have today. Thank you, Squanto. Amen.


  1. I really enjoyed this history lesson. It's important to remember the trials and accomplishments of those who've preceded us. Thanks, and have a Happy Thanksgiving.