Thursday, November 28, 2013

I Hope You Don't Mind, I am Bringing My Friend Tisquantum To Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving, the day which almost every American family gathers together to give thanks for what they feel blessed to have, but mainly all we do is stuff our faces and watch football...and there is nothing wrong with that. Everyone knows the story of Pilgrims, the Mayflower, the landing at Plymouth Rock, the inviting of the Native Americans and so on. Then Americans know more contemporary History about the holiday, Congress passed a law in 1941 making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November, the Macy's Day parade has been bringing in the Holiday season since the 1920s, Abe Lincoln set the first Thanksgiving in 1863 and so on...ok well most people don't remember that stuff. But the one often forgotten part of not just Thanksgiving, but the first Thanksgiving is my main man Tisquantum, or as he is better known as, Squanto.

The Teaching of Agriculture in the High School

Squanto, what do we know about him? Well not much. Everything we know about him is second hand and kinda legendy. For instance, historians aren't even sure when his birthday is, which is why there is no Squanto Day holiday. They also have no idea where he was born, so instead of continuing to research it, they take an "educated guess" and say he was born somewhere around present day Plymouth. What is know about the young Squanto is he was abducted by Captain George Weymouth. But believe it or not, they aren't to sure about the year, best guess is 1605, and better yet they are not sure where the captain found him, some say along the coast near Plymouth, others say somewhere along the coast of Maine. It was after this that Squanto was taken to England, taught English and trained to be a guide and interpreter for future English expeditions to the New World. Ok, so Squanto experts know two things for sure, I wonder if they know if Squanto liked tea and cricket as well.

The Teaching of Agriculture in the High School

Squanto was supposed to return back to his people in 1614. He should have but a man by the name of Thomas Hunt, abducted Squanto and several other Native Americans and planned to sell them in Spain. Luckily for Squanto and the others, some local friars caught wind of Hunt's plane and helped the Natives escape. The friars then intended to teach the Natives about Christianity, Squanto on the other hand was more interested in getting home. So he made his way from Spain to London and then hooked up with John Slany, a shipbuilder, who taught Squanto more English and then stuck him on a ship heading to the New World...well it would be Squanto's Old World...he was going home in 1617. However, when the ship reached Newfoundland, Squanto was informed he'd need to receive permission in order to go back to his native lands. So he hope back on a ship to England, go the permission need and finally was able to return home in 1619. The home coming was not the kind of fairy tales however. Squanto learned that after he left, his people were killed off by the settlers, either through warfare or disease. It is here that Squanto falls out of the scope of written history, but don't worry he comes back again.

In 1621, Squanto had been living with the Wampanoag Indians. When fellow tribesman Samoset made initial contact with the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, Squanto was called up to be the middle man between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag. Squanto then acted as an ambassador for both groups. It is believed by Squanto historians that if not for his help that the Pilgrims would have never survived their first harsh New England winter. Again, this is where fact means legend, but it is believed that Squanto taught the pilgrims how to farm the lands of Plymouth Rock and how to fish the waters around it. Squanto basically retaught a group of city slickers how to live in the untamed wilderness, he was basically the 17th century Les Stroud. This of course is what Americans today celebrate as the first Thanksgiving, even though that isn't the first Thanksgiving.  Squanto was a diplomatic statesman by this point, having allegiance to his people but feeling morally obligated to helping the new settlers survive, he was more or less a 17th century Henry Kissenger. Towards the end of 1621, he acted as a guide and translator for Stephen Hopkins and Edward Winslow. He was even kidnapped by his own people, in which Myles Standish responded by getting a posse together to rescue Squanto if he were alive or, if he had been killed, to avenge him. He was found alive and well, but because of the rescue attempt by Standish, Massasoit, the sachem of the Wampanoag lost trust in Squanto and sent Hobomok to keep an eye on him and be second in command.

Squanto continued to work closely with the Pilgrims, as a guide, translator, diplomat and so on. In November of 1622 while returning to Plymouth after a meeting with the Wampanoag, Squanto fell ill and developed a deadly fever. To make the story of Squanto even more interesting, a few days before he fell ill, while planting corn, his nose began to bleed, something Natives viewed as a death omen. he died on November 30, 1622 in present day Chatham, Massachusetts at the age of 37. It is believed by some Squanto experts that he was poisoned at the meeting by the Wampanoag, as they viewed Squanto as more of a traitor everyday he helped the Pilgrims. To the Pilgrims, the death of Squanto was devastating, as Governer William Bradford wrote, "His death was a great loss." But what is most important about Squanto is his selflessness. He was taken from his home at a young age, returned to a "New World" and then torn between two peoples. The life of Squanto is something Americans should look back on for inspiration. He faced countless trials and always overcame. He worked to make his changing world better. He acted a a bridge to peace, as even after his death the diplomatic works he arranged last from another 50 years. So today after reading this maybe it's time to give Squanto his due, even  though some of the piece of his life are missing the parts that are known make him a true hero. 

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