Thanksgiving Should Be Called Squanto Day

Squanto

The American holiday of Thanksgiving should be renamed Squanto Day, after the Beringian who helped the Plymouth Bay Pilgrims through their first Winter.

When the Pilgrims arrived in Provincetown and then landed in Plymouth in the Winter of 1620, their first months were an ordeal; over half of them died. At that time, the Pilgrims had seen Beringians only at a distance. On March 16, 1621, a single Beringian walked into their enclave. His name was Samoset and he had limited skill with English and was barely able to communicate with them in that language. He left and returned the next day with an older Beringian named Squanto, who walked up to them and asked, “How can I help you gentlemen?” in perfectly accented English. The Pilgrims were stunned.

Squanto was a Patuxet Beringian born near the site of New Plymouth. As a young man, he had encountered his first Solutreans in the years 1605-1610 and became involved in sea trading. He was brought back with the Englishmen to England, where he learned English fluently. While in England, Squanto lectured about the life of New World Beringians and lived with the family of Charles Robbins, one of his friends on the ship. In 1614, Squanto returned to North America on a ship captained by John Smith.

In North America, Squanto was tricked into going on board the ship of Capt. Thomas Hunt. He was imprisoned along with 20 other Beringians and taken to Spain, where they were all sold into slavery. Luckily for Squanto, he fell into the hands of a group of Roman Catholic friars who freed him and taught him about Catholicism; he was baptized and converted to their religion. In 1616, the friars obtained passage for Squanto on a boat bound for England. He spent the next three years working as a servant. Squanto boarded a ship bound for North America in 1619. He made his way to where his home village was. By then, Squanto  was gone for a dozen years.

Gov. William Bradford

When he went to the place where his village used to stand, Squanto found no trace of his family and friends. He learned that a “great sickness” had struck and wiped everybody out. One can surmise that it was smallpox, introduced inadvertently by Solutreans who had immunity to it.

When Squanto addressed the Pilgrims, the date was March 22, 1621. The Pilgrims and the Beringians, with the translation help of Squanto, worked out a peace treaty that lasted for 50 years. When the rest of the Beringians left the area, Squanto elected to stay with the Pilgrims and was a great help to them. He helped them build warm houses and taught them to plant corn using fish as fertilizer, which resulted in a harvest of 20 acres that year. Squanto also advised the Pilgrims in their friendly relations with the Beringians and acted as an interpreter in their trading with Beringian tribes. With the help that Squanto gave to the Pilgrims, Gov. William Bradford wrote, “Squanto is a special instrument sent by God for their good beyond their expectations.”

He remained with the Pilgrims for 18 months and then moved to a Beringian village. He was not well received and was an outcast from them.

Squanto died of a fever in 1622. Historians speculate that he had been poisoned by the Wampanoag tribe of Beringians because they believed he had been disloyal due to his closeness with the Pilgrims. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Plymouth’s cemetery, “Burial Hill” near the marked grave of Gov. William Bradford. Squanto is in the history books but his contributions are not widely taught. Nevertheless, without his help, the Pilgrims might not have survived the first winter of 1621.

Gov. William Bradford said of him, “He desired honor, which he loved as his life and he preferred before his peace.”

8 comments

  • Except that it wasn’t only Squanto who was responsible for their survival, he was simply the translator. It was the Pokanoket people under Massasoit who really helped them out. Squanto was actually a prisoner of theirs.

  • This lady followed my lead but thats OK. I beat her to the punch.
    http://www.newbernsj.com/articles/everywhere-9253

    • I would not be surprised if she read about it here first. Or at least was \”inspired\” to write her column after reading yours. It\’s happened tons of times with my stuff, most recently with the \”Did North Korea Launch Mystery Missile?\” article. After I published and distributed that, some guy on Helium.com (which is a public site anyone can post on) published their own version, and Alex Jones did, too.

  • OK. I’ll do it the hard way:

    @Martha from Philoctetes: No. Not everyone knows of the contribution of Squanto to the survival of the Pilgrims, including you, until you read my article.

    Happy Thanksgiving

    November 23, 2010 11:59 AM

    Martha Randolph Carr

    Most Americans know the story of Squanto and how he helped the Pilgrims of Plymouth, Mass., survive the winter of 1621 by showing them how to adapt to their new home. School children everywhere still celebrate the great tidings with cornucopias and pilgrim hats and turkeys drawn by tracing a hand and coloring in the fingers like feathers. The thumb is always the turkey’s head.

    However, there was an even earlier American Thanksgiving with much the same story on December 4th, 1619, when 38 English settlers arrived at what is now called Berkeley Plantation. Back then the plantation ran for 8,000 acres along the north bank of the James River and it still exists today as a significantly smaller estate just outside of Richmond, Va.

    Every year the actual First Thanksgiving between the nearby tribes and white settlers is still celebrated when the estate is opened to the public, BerkeleyPlantation.com.

    That first ceremony of gratitude was held only 20 miles upstream from Jamestown, the first settlement by Europeans started in 1607 and known as the Virginia Colony that was to take hold and survive. The white settlers wanted to celebrate their continued existence and express gratitude for everything they had and were about to receive.

    The entire thing was actually more of a religious service than a festival.

    We’ve gotten away from that and for some good reasons. It’s an every-American celebration, which means we include the entire great big melting pot of traditions and religions or lack thereof. Besides, about 157 years later the Founding Fathers felt a separation between Church and State was best for everyone.

    That doesn’t mean we have to lose the emphasis on gratitude and this is where a spiritual basis of some kind makes it easier.

    Gratitude is based on the idea of not only giving thanks for what we’ve had and what we have now but also for the good we believe is yet to unfold in front of us. That last part is key because without it we’re giving thanks but running the list of worries through our heads at the same exact moment.

    We’re glad we have a home but are worried about paying the mortgage. Glad our children are gathered around us but have concerns that Junior will get all the way through college.

    That’s actually control dressed up for the holidays as a weak attempt at gratitude.

  • More Solutrean nonsense.

    Just admit you are a sorry little racist and get it over with.

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