Native Americans >> Biographies
by The German Kali Works, New York
- Occupation: Interpreter, Teacher
- Born: 1585 (actual date unknown) in what is today Plymouth Bay, Massachusetts
- Died: November 30, 1622 in Chatham, Massachusetts Bay Colony
- Best known for: Helping the Pilgrims survive their first winter in America
Where did Squanto grow up?
Squanto grew up near what is today the city of Plymouth, Massachusetts. He was a member of the Patuxet tribe and part of the larger Wampanoag confederacy. As a Wampanoag boy he would have learned how to hunt with a bow and arrow at an early age. Much of his childhood would have been spent following around adult men and learning men's skills such as fishing, hunting, and being a warrior.
In the early 1600s, European explorers arrived in North America. One of them, Captain George Weymouth, arrived near Squanto's home searching for gold. When he didn't find any gold, he decided to capture some of the local natives and take them back to England. One of the men he captured was Squanto.
Return to America
Squanto lived in England for a while learning English. He eventually got a job as an interpreter and scout for Captain John Smith who was going to explore Massachusetts. He returned to America in 1614.
Note: Some historians disagree on whether Squanto was kidnapped by Captain Weymouth or if his first contact with the English was actually in 1614.
John Smith returned to England and left Thomas Hunt in charge. Hunt tricked a number of Indians, including Squanto, to board his ship. Then he kidnapped them, hoping to make some money by selling them into slavery in Spain.
When Squanto arrived in Spain, he was rescued by some local priests. He lived with the priests for a while and then made his way to England.
Getting Back Home
After a few years in England, Squanto was able to once again sail on John Smith's ship back to Massachusetts. After years of travel he was finally home. However, things were not as he had left them. His village was deserted and his tribe gone. He soon discovered that the disease smallpox had killed most of his tribe the year before. Squanto went to live with a different Wampanoag tribe.
Helping the Pilgrims
Squanto became the interpreter for Massasoit, the Wampanoag chief. When the Pilgrims arrived and built Plymouth Colony, Squanto was the interpreter between the two leaders. He helped to establish a treaty between the colonists and the Wampanoag.
While visiting the Pilgrims, Squanto realized that they needed help to survive the winter. He taught them how to plant corn, catch fish, eat wild plants, and other ways to survive in Massachusetts. Without Squanto, Plymouth Colony may have failed.
Later Life and Death
Squanto continued to be the main interpreter and intermediary between the colonists and the Wampanoag. Some historians think that Squanto may have abused his power and told lies to both sides. The Wampanoag came to not trust him.
In 1622, Squanto became ill with a fever. His nose began to bleed and he was dead in a few days. No one is quite sure what he died from, but some think he may have been poisoned by the Wampanoag.
Interesting Facts about Squanto
- His birth name was Tisquantum.
- He was once captured by the Wampanoag, but rescued by Myles Standish and the Pilgrims who did not want to lose their interpreter.
- He was likely at the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth.
- He taught the colonists to bury dead fish in the soil for fertilizer.
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