Squanto, also referred to as Tisquantum, was a Native American belonging to the Patuxet tribe who helped settlers to survive by teaching them to hunt, fish and plant crops. He also provided interpreter services between the colonists and Native
Americans. An English captain named Thomas Hunt kidnapped Squanto to sell him into slavery. He escaped and traveled to England to learn the English language and work as a shipbuilder and interpreter.
Eventually, Squanto traveled back to his home village during a trade mission to the U.S, when he discovered it had been destroyed by a disease likely to be smallpox passed on by traders from Europe.
How Did Squanto Help The Pilgrims?
Squanto was an interpreter and guide to the colonists until he died of fever in 1622 CE. Some people believe that he may have been poisoned by his enemies. While Squanto was living with the settlers, he worked as their interpreter, showed them how to plant corn, where to take fish, and other useful skills.
He showed them places they had never seen before and didn’t leave their side until his death. The settlement became more advanced with the help of Squanto, as he taught them how to hunt, farm, and fish, but also allowed trade agreements to go ahead as he was able to interpret for them.
He helped the colonists recover from the harsh first winter in the colony by teaching them how to cultivate maize like a native – which was to bury fish in the soil which fertilized the crops. He taught them which wild plants they could eat, and other important ways to survive their new lives in the Plymouth colony.
He also helped to establish a treaty between the colonists and the Wampanoag confederacy. Squanto was very important to the colonists and natives because of these teachings and his mastery of the English language, and without his interventions, the first New England colonial settlement may have failed.
He was clearly instrumental to the success of the Plymouth colony, however, his intentions were not as amiable as many people first thought, and this was discovered by Massasoit and Hobbamack.
Conflicts with Massasoit and Hobbamack
Massasoit, leader of the Wampanoag confederacy and Hobbamock, a Pokanoket pniese who came to live with the Plymouth Colony, did not trust Squanto’s intentions.
There was no way to tell if Squanto’s interpretations were completely honest, and in the end, Massasoit and Hobbamack were correct in their mistrust because Squanto had been looking out for his own interests by trying to challenge Massasoit’s authority as leader of the tribe and take his place as the chief.
He lied to the natives and told them that the colonists stored the plague in barrels and would release it whenever they wished. He told the natives that for favors, he would become friendly with the colonists and give the tribe protection from them.
How Did Squanto Help The Pilgrims – The Truth
Hobbamock found out about Squanto’s intentions when he heard him discussing the “plague barrels’ ‘ with the natives. In the summer of 1622 CE, the settlers were told that Massachusetts was planning to launch an attack on their colony.
Captain Standish went to Bradford and found that there was no attack planned, but still killed a large number of natives preemptively.
Squanto knew about this but agreed to be a guide on a trade mission with Standish, which meant the colony was left without it’s commander. Squanto believed that Bradford would retaliate from Standish’s attack and kill Massasoit, leaving the position of chief open to him.
When Massaoit found out about Squanto’s elaborate hoax, he wanted to execute him. However, while on a trade mission, Squanto died or reported Indian fever, although it is thought that he might have been poisoned by allies of Massasoit.
Squanto helped to advance the Plymouth colony by acting as the settlers’ interpreter and guide. However, he was not mentioned very often in early history and started to appear in later works throughout the 19th century.
The idea of the “noble savage” – which refers to a wild person or outsider who has not fallen under the corruption of civilization and is therefore a symbol of innate goodness in humans, was associated with Squanto in the year 1863 CE after Thanksgiving became a national holiday.
Even though Squanto is depicted in literature works as a helpful and amicable Native American, it was found through the accounts of Bradford and Winslow that Squanto had much more negative intentions than is portrayed.
However, this could be because Squanto wished to gain something for himself after living as a servant of Massasoit, and losing everything to the diseases brought to his home by the settlers.