WHO WAS SQUANTUM?

Squanto (aka Squantum, Tisquantum) Squanto (aka Squantum, Tisquantum) Photo was taken courtesy of the Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, MA, United States. www.pilgrimhall.org/plgrmhll.htm )

On March 16, 1621, an important event occurred for the Pilgrim Fathers. A Native American, Samoset, walked into their Plymouth settlement and called out "Welcome Englishmen, Welcome Englishmen."

Obviously, the Pilgrims were amazed to hear him speak this English phrase. He seemed friendly, so the Pilgrims greeted him openly, yet cautiously. Samoset told them he would return with his friend who spoke better English. When he returned as he had promised, he brought not only his friend Squantum (Squanto.) Samoset introduced Squantum to the Pilgrims as "a native of this place who had been in England and could speak better English than himself.1"

With the help of Squantum's interpretation, Massasoit and Governor Carver made a peace treaty that would last for at least fifty more years. After the treaty was signed, Massasoit returned to Rhode Island. Squantum (Squanto) choose to remain with the settlers and to teach them methods of survival in the new land. 2

Squantum's life before he met the Pilgrims was intermingled with that of European adventurers who were establishing ties in the New World during that period. His life story is one of betrayal, grief, and loss mixed with excitement, adventure, and good fortune.

The few glimpses that remain into Squantum's life provide interesting pieces in a puzzle which may never be completely solved. When I began the project, I intended to research only Squantum's stay in Cupids. However, his life history is such a compelling story and there are so many original documents available on the Internet, that I could not stop reading. If you can find errors in the account or if you can add more information, please e-mail me. Having read so much of his story, I feel I own it to him to make my account correct. Who was Squantum, how did he learn to speak good English, why did Squantum stay and help the Pilgrims, and was he a hero or a villain?

Who was Squantum, how did he learn to speak good English, why did Squantum stay and help the Pilgrims, and was he a hero or a villian?


1. John A. Garraty, "Tisquantum" Dictionary of American Biography, 703, quoting Willian Bradford, "Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647, ed. S.E. Norison (1967)
2. Notes on these meetings illustrated by works of art can be found at the Web Site of the Pilgrim's Hall Museum