Squanto Biography

Folk Hero(c. 1580–c. 1622)
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.

Synopsis

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 the English had storage pits containing the plague and would release it if they didn’t do what he wanted.

Death

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.

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