It is no exaggeration to say that without Squanto, the Plymouth colony might have failed. Squanto was one of the first Native Americans to live successfully in the worlds of both the European and the Red Indian. Virtually every re-telling of the First Thanksgiving story is marred by historical errors in the depictions of the event, from the food served at the feast to the clothing worn by the Pilgrims (not hats with buckles on them!).
Squanto (1590 – 1622) was a member of the Pawtuxet Indian tribe of coastal Massachusetts. In 1614, a British ship, under the command of John Smith and Thomas Dermer, sailed into Massachusetts to trade with the Pawtuxet. After a merchandise exchange, Smith & Dermer’s ship left Massachusetts. The next day a different British ship arrived to trade with the Pawtuxet. “Come to a feast aboard my ship,” declared Thomas Hunt. Instead of feasting, Squanto and three of his comrades were shackled and imprisoned below the deck. In the sunless dungeon, below the deck, Squanto thought to himself, “Perhaps I have died and I am now making the journey of the dead. And perhaps I will be reborn into the land of the spirits on the other side of the world, in the land of light, where the Sun god dwells.”
Thomas Hunt took Squanto to Málaga, Spain to be sold as a slave. A priory of Catholic friars purchased Squanto so that they could convert him to Roman Catholicism. After two years, the friars arranged for Squanto to go to London, England. In March 1619, Squanto sailed back to New England at the side of his old friend Thomas Dermer. Alas, a plague (probably smallpox or leptospirosis) had massacred over 99 percent of the Pawtuxet tribe so Squanto was absorbed into the Nemasket and Pokanoket tribes led by Chief Massasoit. In November 1620, the Mayflower ship arrived in Plymouth but the Native Americans did not approach the Pilgrims until March 1621. Samoset and Squanto eventually broke the silence by introducing themselves to the Pilgrims leader William Bradford (1590-1657), thus initiating the First Thanksgiving. Squanto died on November 1622, while serving as an interpreter and guide to Governor William Bradford. THE END
(On a side note, a few pseudo-historians believe that Squanto may have been taken to England in 1605 by George Weymouth but then returned to Massachusetts with John Smith in 1614.)