Ralph Waldo Emerson:
Most people in the USA will celebrate Thanksgiving. They'll stuff themselves with Turkey, sweet potatoes, ham, and spend the day eating or watching sports on TV with their friends and families.
We all think we know something about the Pilgrims coming to America in 1620. After all, they came looking for freedom from oppression. Most of us have read about the disastrous winter where almost half of the Plymouth colony died from starvation and disease.
1620 was a bad year, but 1621 was better.
A Native American named Tisquantum (Often called Squanto) made 1621 better. He taught them how to survive. He showed the Pilgrims how to plant crops and helped them have a good harvest year.
Squanto, a Native American Christian, could speak many languages, including English and Spanish. He had crossed the Atlantic numerous times, and he held the keys to the Plymouth Colonies survival.
Most people know some of this story and how it led to Captain Miles Standish, the leader of the Pilgrims, to invite Squanto and other Indian leaders to celebrate their successful harvest. This is now considered to be the basis for our Thanksgiving holiday.
Fewer people know the story of Squanto, who he was and how he came about to help the settlers.
Squanto was born sometime between 1585 and 1592 into the Patuxet tribe close to what later became Plymouth Massachusetts. Squanto (or Tisquantum) was not the name he was born with, but rather it was given to him later in life. According to Wikipedia, It means "Divine rage" or "Wrath of God."
In 1605 Captain George Weymouth captured Squanto and 4 Penobscot Tribesmen and took them to England. The five of them lived with Ferdinando Gorges. Gorges taught them English and hired Squanto to be an interpreter and guide. In 1614 he joined Captain John Smith in an expedition back to Patuxet. While serving with Smith, he was abducted by one of Smith's Lieutenants, Thomas Hunt.
Hunt took Squanto and a number of other Native Americans to Malaga, Spain, to be sold as slaves.
Squanto was fortunate. A group of Franciscan friars discovered what Hunt was planning and helped him and other Native Americans to escape.
While living with the Franciscans, Squanto appreciated their simple life and their kindness. Because of the Franciscan's influence, he converted to Christianity.
The Friars helped Squanto make his way to London where he contacted John Slany, a ship builder and friend. He lived with Slany and Slany helped him to further perfect his English. Sqanto was employed by Slany and Fernando Gorges. In 1617, Slany took Squanto with him to Cuper's Cove Newfoundland. Squanto desperately wanted to go back to his home to New England, but his employer was reluctant to release him without permission from Fernando Gorges.
Slany sent him back to London and Gorges gave him permission to leave his employ and return home.
Squanto returned home in 1619. He returned home only to find empty huts. His family and most of his friends had died the year before from a plague.
Squanto wandered the forests in grief.
He finally went to live with his friend Samoset.
According to Wikipedia, Samoset was a sagamore (subordinate chief) of an Eastern Abenaki tribe that resided, in what we now know as Maine. He was also the first Native American to make Contact with the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony.
On March 16, 1621, Samoset entered the encampment at Plymouth, greeted the colonists in English, and asked for beerů After spending the night with the Pilgrims, he left, to return with five others who brought deer-skins to trade.
On March 22, 1621, Samoset came back with Squanto, who was able to speak much better English. Squanto arranged a meeting with Massasoit, the leader of the Wampanoag Confederacy.
Squanto remained with the Plymouth colony, helped them, grow food, make peace with surrounding tribes and survive in their new land. The Plymouth Colony had many reasons to be thankful because of the help that Squanto gave them.
Dr. Ralph Wilson wrote, in an article titled "God's special Indian:"
Squanto lived for another two years with the people of Plymouth when he contracted a "raging fever" while scouting east of Plymouth.
Pilgrim leader William Bradford knelt at his bedside. "Pray for me Governor" Squanto whispered, "That I might go to the Englishmen's God in heaven." And then he died.
In the USA we celebrate Thanksgiving. We enjoy family and friends. We gorge ourselves with food and saturate our minds with football, and other sports. We often forget how people like Squanto, were responsible for the Thanksgiving that we now enjoy.
Wishing you all these words of Thanksgiving
For each new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food, For love and friends, For everything Thy goodness sends.
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