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Squanto, also known as Tisquantum, was a pivotal figure in early American history. Born in the early 17th century, Squanto belonged to the Patuxet tribe, who inhabited the region that is now present-day Massachusetts. His life and experiences were deeply intertwined with the arrival of the Pilgrims, making him a crucial intermediary between the Native Americans and the newly arrived European settlers. Squanto’s involvement and assistance to the Pilgrims during their early years in Plymouth played a vital role in the survival of the English colonists. This introduction will explore the life of Squanto, his interactions with the Pilgrims, and the significant impact he had on the history of early American colonization.
Who Was Squanto?
Squanto was born circa 1580 near Plymouth, Massachusetts. Little is known about his early life. In 1614, he was kidnapped by English explorer Thomas Hunt, who brought him to Spain where he was sold into slavery. Squanto escaped, eventually returning to North America in 1619. He then returned to the Patuxet region, where he became an interpreter and guide for the Pilgrim settlers at Plymouth in the 1620s. He died circa November 1622 in Chatham, Massachusetts.
Early Life and Capture
Born circa 1580 near Plymouth, Massachusetts, Squanto, also known as Tisquantum, is best remembered for serving as an interpreter and guide for the Pilgrim settlers at Plymouth in the 1620s. Historians know little about Squanto’s life. A Patuxet Indian born in present-day Massachusetts, Squanto is believed to have been captured as a young man along the Maine coast in 1605 by Captain George Weymouth, who had been commissioned by Plymouth Company owner Sir Ferdinando Gorges to explore the coast of Maine and Massachusetts, and reportedly captured Squanto, along with four Penobscots, because he thought his financial backers in Britain might want to see some Indians.
Weymouth brought Squanto and the other Indians to England, where Squanto lived with Ferdinando Gorges, who taught him English and hired him to be an interpreter and guide.
Interpreter and Guide for the Pilgrims
Now fluent in English, Squanto returned to his homeland in 1614 with English explorer John Smith, possibly acting as a guide, but was captured again by another British explorer, Thomas Hunt, and sold into slavery in Spain. Squanto escaped, lived with monks for a few years, and eventually returned to North America in 1619, only to find his entire Patuxet tribe dead from smallpox. He went to live with the nearby Wampanoags.
In 1621, Squanto was introduced to the Pilgrims at Plymouth, and subsequently acted as an interpreter between Pilgrim representatives and Wampanoag Chief Massasoit. In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims and Wampanoags celebrated the first Thanksgiving after reaping a successful crop. The following year, Squanto deepened the Pilgrims’ trust by helping them find a lost boy, and assisted them with planting and fishing.
Squanto’s unique knowledge of the English language and English ways gave him power. He sought to increase his status among other native groups by exaggerating his influence with the colonists and even going so far as to tell them that if they didn’t do what he wanted, he could have the English release the plague, which he claimed they were holding in storage pits.
Embroiled in the politics emerging between the settlers and the local tribes, Squanto died of a fever in Chatham, Massachusetts, circa November 1622, while acting as a guide for Governor William Bradford.
- Birth Year: 1580
- Birth State: Massachusetts
- Birth City: Near Plymouth (present-day Massachusetts)
- Birth Country: United States
- Gender: Male
- Best Known For: Squanto, also known as Tisquantum, was a Native American of the Patuxet tribe who acted as an interpreter and guide to the Pilgrim settlers at Plymouth during their first winter in the New World.
- Death Year: 1622
- Death State: Massachusetts
- Death City: Chatham (present-day Massachusetts)
- Death Country: United States
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- Article Title: Squanto Biography
- Author: Biography.com Editors
- Website Name: The Biography.com website
- Url: https://www.biography.com/history-culture/squanto
- Access Date:
- Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
- Last Updated: July 9, 2020
- Original Published Date: April 2, 2014
In conclusion, Squanto played a vital role in establishing peaceful relations between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. His knowledge of English and understanding of both cultures proved invaluable in facilitating communication and negotiation. Squanto’s assistance in teaching the Pilgrims essential survival skills, such as farming and hunting, was pivotal in ensuring their survival during their first winters in the New World. Despite his controversial past as a captive and betrayal by his own people, Squanto chose peace and cooperation over revenge, leaving a lasting impact on the early colonial history of America. His story serves as a reminder of the power of diplomacy and the potential for individuals to bridge cultural divides.
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1. Who was Squanto and why is he important?
2. Squanto’s role in the first Thanksgiving
3. Where was Squanto born and raised?
4. Squanto’s capture by Europeans
5. How did Squanto learn English?
6. Squanto as an interpreter between Pilgrims and Native Americans
7. Squanto’s contributions to the survival of the Plymouth Colony
8. Squanto’s interactions with other Native American tribes
9. Squanto’s return to his native village after the arrival of Europeans
10. Legacy of Squanto and his impact on American history