The Pilgrims: Meeting Squanto

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Squanto was introduced to the Pilgrim’s by Samoset. He would live with the English colonists and serve as their translator the remainder of his life.

Squanto was part of the Patuxet tribe. His name was also Tisquantum.

He was kidnapped and taken to England

Given that first hand accounts do not mention him as young or old, it’s believe he must have been in his 20s or 30s, meaning he would have been born around 1585.

His tribe, the Patuxet, occupied the West of Cape Cod Bay. Squanto once “told an English trader that the Patuxet once numbered 2,000.”

European explorers and fishermen sporadically came into contact with the Patuxet and Cape Cod area in the decades before the Mayflower landing. These encounters were profound, often bringing diseases to which the people had no resistances, but eventually leading to trade of furs and fish which eventually destroyed the inter-tribal exchange patterns of the Native Americans. Over time ill will and hostilities began to rise towards those with less than honorable causes.

In 1614, Thomas Hunt arrived and lured twenty Patuxet, including Squanto, aboard on the promise of trade. He took them to the Strait of Gaibaltor where he sold as many as possible.

Local Friars in Malaga took custody of the remaining Indians, upon discovering they were from American, and instructed them in the Christian faith.

The kidnapping led to the Nauset and Patuxet tribes becoming outraged and extremely hostile by the kidnappings. Until 1618 and 1619, when a devastating plague wiped out the entire village of Patuxet and many other surrounding areas were heavily hit.

Squanto was the only survivor due to his kidnapping. From Spain he found his way to England, where he lived with John Slaney, the treasurer of the Newfoundland Company, in Cornhill, London and learned the English language. It is believed Tisquantium {Squanto} was hired as an interpreter and expert on North American natural resources. .

In 1619, he left with Captain Dermer for New England, serving as an interpreter and peacemaker. Upon arriving, Squanto discovered his entire village died from the plague.

He made contact with the head of the Wampanoa Confederation, Massasoit and his brother Quadenquina.

illustration of Squanto demonstrating how to plant corn

When the Pilgrims arrived they decided to settle where the Patuxet tribe lived.

Squanto was introduced to the Pilgrims on March 22. He would soon become an integral member of the Plymouth Colony, translating and negotiating with the Plymouth governors and tribal leaders.

He assisted wtih making peace with the Nauset and other Indian leaders within the Wampanoag Confederation.

He also served as a guide, taking the Pilgrim ambassadors to various locations to establish trade relations. He also taught the Pilgrims how to better utilize the natural resources such as catching eels, planting corn and using the town brook as fertilizer.


His new-found power soon led to corruption, as he leveraged the fear of the Natives against them and tried to trick the Pilgrims into showing him military actions. Soon his treachery was discovered by both the Pilgrims and the Indians.

The Pilgrims were obligated by their peace agreement to turn him over to Massasoit for abusing his power.

The arrival of a new ship, Fortune, distracted everyone and turned out to save Squanto. The new settlers needed food and lodging. Squanto’s interpreting skills was needed.

In November 1622, he took a trip with Governor Bradford to southward of the Cape. When his nose began to bleed, he explained it was a sign to his people of impending death and asked for prayer. A few days later he died.

Bradford wrote of his death, “In this place Squanto fell sick of Indian fever, bleeding much at the nose (which the Indians take as a symptom of death) and within a few days died there; desiring the Governor to pray for him, that he might go to the Englishmen’s God in Heaven; and bequeathed sundry of his things to English friends, as remembrances of his love; of whom they had a great loss.”

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