Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tisquantum - "Squanto"

Captain George Weymouth captured Tisquantum and took him to England in 1605 where he learned to speak English. Tisquantum spend nine years in England before he could return home to his family of Patuxets Indians on Cape Cod. In 1614, he traveled home on Captain John Smith's vessel. 

Captain Thomas Hunt, a member of Smith's expedition, deceptively lured Tisquantum and twenty-six other Indians on to his ship. Hunt chained them in irons after luring the Indians on to his ship by pretending to want to trade with them. Tisquantum and the other Indians were taken to Spain and sold into slavery. Tisquantum was delivered into the company of two friars who introduced the Christian faith to him. Eventually, he made his way to England and boarded Captain Dermer's ship bound for America in 1619. Many of the other Indians which had been enslaved never returned to America. When he arrived in Cape Cod, he learned that every member of his tribe had died due to an epidemic of small pox in 1617.

The Pilgrims reached the shore of Cape Cod in November of 1620. The Pilgrims were members of the Separatist congregation of Scrooby, England. The had fled to Holland to avoid conforming to the demands of the Anglican church in England. While in Holland, they feared their children would lose their English identity so the Pilgrims chose to sail for America to begin a new life. After twelve years in Holland, they set sail for the New World and arrived in a place they would call Plymouth named after the village in England from where they began their voyage.

Upon arriving in Cape Cod, they discovered that the land had been cleared but had not been farmed for several seasons. They experienced a devastating winter season through which several of their members encountered hardship and sickness. On a March day, an English speaking Indian named Samoset entered the Pilgrim village of Plymouth. Samoset had learned to Speak English from fishermen whom he had met along the coast of Maine. The Pilgrims learned from Samoset that they had settled on the homeland of the Patuxet Indians who died four years earlier. They learned that the Patuxet Indians were a large hostile tribe of Indians which viciously murdered white men who encroached upon their lands. The other Indians of the area chose not to settle on the Patuxet lands for fear that a death curse may be upon anyone who might settle on those lands.

Consequently, the Pilgrims landed on the American continent at a place of uninhabited land on the East coast of the continent. Furthermore, the was the same land on which Tisquantum had lived with his family and tribe.

The Pilgrims became acquainted with Tisquantum on March 22, 1621 when he arrived in Plymouth. He brought news that the great chief Massasoit of the Wampanoag and leader of several tribes in the surrounding area would arrive to visit the English settlers on that day. Tisquantum helped the Pilgrims arrange a peace treaty with Massasoit which would last for decades. Nearly half of the Pilgrims died during the devastating winter. Those who survived, lacked the necessary skills to settle the land and endure the hardships which one could experience in the new land. Tisquantum taught the settlers how to fertilize their fields and protect their corn. Tisquantum would teach them how to harvest the food of nature. They learned how to catch fish from the streams that were nearby.

Today we remember Tisquantum by the name Squanto which he received.

On March of 1621, Governor Bradford recorded in his work Of Plymouth Plantation:

“About the 16th of March [1621], a certain Indian came boldly amongst them and spoke to them in broken English...Hie name was Samoset. He told them also of another Indian whose name was Squanto, a native of this place, who had been in England and could speak better English than himself... 
[A]bout four or five days after, came...the aforesaid Squanto...[He] continued with them and was their interpreter and was a special instrument sent of God for the good beyond their expectation. He showed them how to plant corn, where to take fish and other commodities, and guided them to unknown places, and never left them till he died.
He was a native of these parts, and had been one of the few survivors of the plague hereabouts. He was carried away with others by one Hunt, a captain of a ship, who intended to sell them for slaves in Spain; but he got away for England, and was received by a merchant in Londdon, and employed in Newfoundland and other parts, and lastly brought into these parts by a Captain Dermer.”

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