Most of us remember hearing the name “Squanto” as a kid. We probably can make the connection between Squanto and Thanksgiving in some way. But have you heard the real story of Squanto’s life?
One author writes: Historical accounts of Squanto’s life vary, but historians believe that around 1608—more than a decade before the Pilgrims arrived—a group of English traders sailed to what is today Plymouth, Massachusetts. When the trusting Wampanig Indians came out to trade, the traders took them prisoner, transported them to Spain, and sold them into slavery. It was an unimaginable horror.
Squanto was bought by a Spanish monk, who treated him well. Squanto eventually made his way to England and worked in the stables of a man named John Slaney. Slaney sympathized with Squanto’s desire to return home, and he promised to put the Indian on the first vessel bound for America.
It wasn’t until 1618—ten years after Squanto was first kidnapped—that a ship was found. Finally, after a decade of exile and heartbreak, Squanto was on his way home. But when he arrived in Massachusetts, more heartbreak awaited him. An epidemic of smallpox had wiped out Squanto’s entire village.
Over the next number of months, Squanto lived alone in the woods. Then, in 1620, a shipload of English families arrived at Plymouth Rock in Massachusettsand settled on the very land once occupied by Squanto’s people. Squanto went to meet them, greeting the startled Pilgrims in English.
One of the men who met Squanto was the Pilgrim Governor William Bradford, who was a Protestant Christian. Bradford and the group of 103 pilgrims spent that first winter in New England in a “howling wilderness.” More than half of them died during those winter months. In fact, it was common to bury two or three people a day.
In the fall of 1621, the pilgrims enjoyed a rich harvest. Bradfordcalled them to a three day feast of Thanksgiving to the Lord, thanking him for his gracious provision.
According to Bradford’s diary, Squanto “became a special instrument sent of God for [our] good . . . He showed [us] how to plant [our] corn, where to take fish and to procure other commodities . . . and was also [our] pilot to bring [us] to unknown places for [our] profit, and never left [us] till he died.”