SQUANTUM - CHAPTURED AS A SLAVE

1614-1617

On his way back to his village, Squantum met Captain Thomas Hunt who had stayed to catch more fish to bring back to Spain. Hunt persuaded Squantum to go on his ship, so that he could capture him, and bring him to Malaga, Spain to sell him as a slave. Squantum was imprisoned along with 27 other young Native Americans.

For the second time, Squantum was imprisoned aboard a British merchant ship. Conditions on these ships were dismal for everyone, but especially for slaves. Rats scampered across the damp hold where the Native Americans were chained. Scarce provisions, a stormy trip, and continual seasickness took their toll. Many slaves died and were buried at sea.

When the ship arrived in the Spanish slave port of Malaga, all the Native Americans were sold as slaves. Several reputable sources1 assert that nothing is known about his life in Malaga except that after two years he escaped and was able to find passage back to England. They point out that his ability to speak English probably gained him sympathy with English sailors who brought him back to England.

William Bradford who was governor of Plymouth while Squantum was there describes the events as follows:

    He was carried away with divers others by one Hunt, a master of a ship, who thought to sell them for slaves in Spain. But he got away for England and was entertained by a merchant in London, and employed to Newfoundland and other parts, and lastly brought hither into these parts by one Mr. Dermer, a gentleman employed by Sir Ferdinando Gorges and others for discovery and other designs in these parts. 2

In another, more detailed version of the story, some Internet sources maintain that Squantum was fortunate enough to have been purchased by a group of Spanish Franciscan friars in Malaga. The friars offered Squantum his freedom. Some historians contend that he converted to Christianity at that time, because the Friars treated him with care and respect. Those sources assert that after a period of time, the Franciscans helped him to board a ship back to England. Sir Ferdinando Gorges, who knew Squantum very well asserts:

    Some local Friars, however, discovered what was happening and took the remaining Indians from Hunt in order to instruct them in the Chirstian faith, thus "disappointing this unworthy fellow of the hopes of gain he conceived to make by this new & devilish project".
    Tisquantum lived with the Friars until 1618...3
  1. John A. Garraty, "Tisquantum" Dictionary of American Biography, 702-703 and W. Auston Squires, "Tisquantum" Dictionary of Canadian Biography, 649-650
  2. Treaty with the Indians (1621) William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation, c.1650, found on The Modern History Source Book Site.
  3. Caleb Johnson's Mayflower Web Page from Mourt's Relation which was written mainly Edward Winslow (although William Bradford appears to have written the descriptions above) between November 1620 and November 1621. It was first published in London in 1622, presumably by George Morton (hence the title, Mourt's Relation).