Squanto-A Real American Hero

1911 illustration of Tisquantum ("Squanto") teaching the Plymouth colonists
to plant maize. (Image from Wikipedia)

By Rusty Lee Thomas - Elijah Ministries

One of the most meaningful elements of the Thanksgiving saga centers on God's providential hand concerning an Indian known as Squanto. He was born and raised amongst an Indian tribe known as the Patuxets. They were one of the fiercest tribes located in New England. This particular tribe was especially brutal towards any visitors they might encounter.

As a young man, Squanto was kidnapped and sold into slavery. He was taken to a notorious slave-trading port known as Malaga, which is located off the coast of Spain. Fortunately for Squanto, instead of being sold and shipped off to North Africa, he was rescued by some local friars. It was here that Squanto became familiar with certain aspects of the Christian faith. Little did Squanto know at this stage of his life that God was preparing him for a significant role that he would later play at Plymouth.

Eventually Squanto attached himself to an Englishman bound for London. While in London, Squanto resided with a wealthy merchant. During this time, he was trained in the English language. Once again, God's providence was at work in Squanto's life. Before long, he began to yearn for his homeland. In God's providence, Squanto embarked back home to New England with a Captain Dermer. While approaching the Maine coast, another important piece to the Thanksgiving puzzle came into being. Captain Dermer picked up another Indian called Samoset and dropped them both off at Plymouth.

Upon their arrival, which in God's providence was 6 months prior to the landing of our Pilgrim forefathers and foremothers, Squanto was dismayed to find that his entire tribe was missing. He searched diligently, but all that he found was skulls, bones, and his village lying in ruins. Out of all that Squanto experienced thus far, this was probably the hardest blow yet. Unbeknownst to him, after being kidnapped, a plague swept through his tribe and wiped out every single member of his village.

Squanto wandered aimlessly for a time, but eventually found refuge with another more peaceful tribe that was led by the chieftain Massasoit. While adjusting to living after the manner of this tribe, one day Samoset brought news to him concerning a band of folks that were hard pressed to stay alive. It was at this point God's purpose for Squanto became apparent. The arrival of the Englishmen became for Squanto his purpose, vision, and mission in life. To him, the Pilgrims were lost in the wilderness and they desperately needed someone to show them the ways of the wild. Of course, once the Pilgrims learned Squanto's testimony, they believed he was their Joseph. Just like Joseph in the Old Testament was sold into slavery and suffered many hardships and injustices to preserve life for Israel, Squanto was America's Joseph to the Pilgrims.

From the moment Squanto entered the Pilgrims' lives by stating in their English tongue "welcome," he mentored them with the necessary means to survival. He taught them how to fish, plant corn, stalk deer, plant pumpkins, refine maple syrup from maple trees, discern which herbs were good for food or medicine, and which were the best berries for consumption. Besides all these manifold benefits, Squanto introduced them to the pelt of the beaver. It was this new development that improved their economic condition, just as the prior help improved their health and physical condition.

As great as these improvements were, however, the Pilgrims still suffered hardships. Governor Carver was suddenly struck down. He died three days later. William Bradford was unanimously chosen to replace him as Governor. Soon after, another temptation came that would throw the colony into despair. Captain Jones who transported the Pilgrims in the Mayflower to these shores decided to return to England. Captain Jones before he left begged the Pilgrims to return with him because he greatly feared for their future. And though the offer was contemplated, not one of the Pilgrims budged. Their perseverance in the midst of sickness, deprivation, and death had forged a special bond in the love of Jesus Christ that the Pilgrims were not willing to abandon.

The summer of 1621 proved to be a blessing for the Pilgrims. Buildings were being erected and trade expeditions led by Squanto proved advantageous. The fall harvest was beyond their expectations. With such favor finally manifesting, the Pilgrims were overflowing with gratitude. Almighty God had carried them through dark, difficult days. He had raised up Squanto to help them not only survive, but to actually begin to thrive. As a result, Governor Bradford called for a day of public Thanksgiving. Massasoit was invited and he brought about 90 Indians with him. Though somewhat daunting, the Pilgrims did not despair, but prayed to God for provisions. Happily, the Indians did not come empty handed. Massasoit sent out braves to hunt before they came. For three days they feasted together. Elder William Brewster began the festivities with a heart-felt prayer of much thanks to the God of their pilgrimage. The Pilgrims and Indians enjoyed competitive races and wrestling matches throughout their time together. It was this event that eventually established our national holiday known as Thanksgiving.

Perhaps before you eat and give thanks on Thursday, some portion of this testimony along with our previous message on Thanksgiving can be imparted to your family. The Pilgrim's example of facing adversity and overcoming through the love of Christ is legendary. We need to train ourselves and posterity to emulate them, especially in these days that we face.