( Tisquantum )


Patuxet Interpreter


Tisquantum was a native of the Patuxet tribe, which lived at present-day Plymouth, and which belonged to the Wampanoag confederation of tribes.

In 1605, Captain George Weymouth led an expedition on behalf of some merchants in England, to look at the resources of North America, particularly the Canadian and New England areas.

He sailed down the coast of Maine into Massachusetts, where he stopped.

Thinking his financial backers in England would be interested in seeing some Indians, he decided to bring some back with him.

They kidnapped two Indians in a very brutal manner, writing "we used little delay, but suddenly laid hands upon them . . . For they were strong and so naked as our best hold was by their long hair on their heads".

He had gotten three other Indians to take back to England as well, but he used bribery with them: "we gave them a can of peas and bread, which they carried to the shore to eat. But one of them brought back our can presently and staid aboard with the other two; for he being young, of a ready capacity, and one we most desired to bring with us into England, had received exceeding kind usage at our hands, and was therefore much delighted in our company."

That Indian was most likely Tisquantum.

Brought into England, Tisquantum lived with Sir Ferdinando Gorges, whose Plymouth Company had a lot of financial possibilities to exploit in the New World.

Gorges kept Squanto, taught him some English, and eventually hired him to be a guide and interpreter for his sea captains who were exploring the New England coasts.

In 1614, he was brought back to America, assisting some of Gorges men in the mapping of the New England coast.

John Smith, after he was done mapping the Cape Cod region, left in charge a fellow captain by the name of Thomas Hunt, to trade with the Indians a little more.

Once Smith had sailed off, however, Hunt promptly tricked twenty Nausets and seven Patuxets into coming on board his ship to trade--and then kidnapped them.

Tisquantum, probably on board to act as an interpreter for the trades, was one of those captured.

They were bound, and sailed to Malaga, Spain, where Hunt tried to sell them for slaves at 20 apiece.

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 when he boarded a ship of Bristol headed for Newfoundland.

When Tisquantum arrived in Newfoundland, however, he was recognized by Captain Thomas Dermer who happened to be there, and who had worked in the past for Sir Ferdinando Gorges.

Thomas Dermer wrote a letter to Sir Ferdinando Gorges, stating he had found "his Indian" in Newfoundland and asked what he should do with him.

Dermer brought Tisquantum back to Gorges.

While in England, Gorges apparently boarded Tisquantum with Sir John Slainey, treasurer of the Newfoundland Company.

After working out the details, Gorges organized a trip to send both Dermer and Tisquantum to explore the natural resources and to re-initiate trade with the Indians along the New England coast who had been angry with the English after Hunt had kidnapped members of their tribes.

At the end of the expedition, Tisquantum would be returned to his home at Patuxet.

Dermer and Tisquantum thus became very closely associated with one another.

They worked together mapping the resources of the New England coast.

When they arrived at Patuxet in 1619, Dermer and Tisquantum soon found out that the entire Patuxet tribe had been wiped out in a plague in 1617.

Squanto was the only Patuxet left alive, so he moved in with a neighboring tribe that lived at Pokanoket--the home of Wampanoag sachem Massasoit.

Dermer continued on, and while at Cape Cod, he and his crew were attacked by Nausets, and Dermer was taken hostage.

Squanto heard about the incident, and came to his friend's aid, and negotiated his safe release.

Dermer would later be attacked by Indians near Martha's Vineyard, and would die of his wounds after reaching Virginia.

Just little more than a year after Tisquantum was returned to his homeland, the Pilgrims arrived--in November 1620.

After the Pilgrim explorers checked out all of the surrounding regions, they finally decided to settle at Plymouth in late December.

Little did they know that just a couple years ago, Plymouth had been center of the Patuxet tribe.

Two months after settling at Plymouth, an Indian visiting from Maine, by the name of Samoset, walked right into the middle of the Colony which was being built, and welcomed the Pilgrims in English.

Somewhat fearful and somewhat astounded, the Pilgrims and Samoset talked all day and night.

After Samoset had led several tradings with the Pilgrims, he told the Wampanoag living at Pokanoket that the Pilgrims wanted to make a peace with them.

Massasoit sent Tisquantum to be interpreter, and on March 22, 1621, the Pilgrims met Squanto for the first time.

That day, Squanto negotiated a peace treaty between Massasoit and the Wampanoag, and John Carver and the Pilgrims.

It essentially stated that the Wampanoag and the Pilgrims would not harm each other, and they became a military alliance as well, such that if one were attacked, the other would come to the aid.

Tisquantum lived out the rest of his life in the Plymouth Colony.

He befriended the Pilgrims, and taught them how to manure their corn, where to catch fish and eels, and acted as their interpreter and guide.

Without Squanto's help, the Pilgrims would probably have had severe famine over the next year, and would have lived in constant fear of their Indian neighbors--Indians who were actually quite peaceful, but who had been rightfully angered by the cruel treatment they received from many English ship captains like Thomas Hunt.

Tisquantum did not help the Pilgrims solely because he was a nice and caring individual.

By late 1621 he was using his position with the Pilgrims for his own gain--threatening many Indians that if they did not do as he told them, he would have the Pilgrims "release the plague" against them. As with all humans, "power corrupts".

When Massasoit learned that Tisquantum was abusing his position to steal power, he demanded Squanto be turned over to him to be executed.

The Pilgrims were required to turn Squanto over, according to the peace treaty they had signed with one another.

But the Pilgrims felt they needed Squanto's services, so they stalled--until an English ship came onto the horizon, and distracted everyone's attention for awhile.

But in November 1622, while on a trading expedition to the Massachusetts Indians, Tisquantum came down with Indian fever, his nose began to bleed, and he died.

Governor William Bradford, perhaps Squanto's closest friend and associate among the Pilgrims, wrote the following about his sudden death: In this place Squanto fell sick of an Indian fever, bleeding much at the nose (which the Indians take for a symptom of death) and within a few days died there; desiring the Governor to pray for him that he might go to the Englishman's God in Heaven; and bequeathed sundry of his things to sundry of his English friends as remembrances of his love; of whom they had great loss.


Addition :

Squanto belonged to the Patuxet Indians. The Indians ate berries, beans, corn, and fish. They also hunted animals in the forest.

When Squanto was 14, he saw the tall sails of the white man's ship. The white men were led by Captain Weymouth. The captain said, "We come in peace." The Indians traded their furs for knives, combs, mirrors, bracelets, and rings with these white men. The captain wanted Squanto to sail with him. After trading with the Indians they sailed to England. They traveled for many days. When Squanto saw England he felt lonely and out of place.

One day the famous Captain John Smith came looking for Squanto to sail to the New World. He wanted Squanto to come along to help talk with the Indians. Two ships sailed to the New World. One ship was commanded by Captain Smith. The other ship was commanded by Captain Hunt. Captain Hunt was a cruel man, so Squanto traveled with Captain Smith.

Smith wanted to go explore New England. Captain Smith wanted to make maps. After the captain finished making maps, Squanto left to walk to his village.

Squanto was two days away from his village when he was taken by Captain Hunt and sold in Spain. For several years Squanto worked for his masters in Spain. Squanto sailed on a ship for England. In England he was able to sail on a fishing boat going to Newfoundland. After staying for many months in Newfoundland, Squanto found a ship going south to New England.

Squanto finally reached the village of Chief Massasoit. The chief told Squanto that a sickness had killed his entire tribe. Squanto left to live alone in the forest.

Samoset came to Squanto and told him a village called Plymouth was built by people from England. The village was built were Squanto's home had been. Samoset and Squanto went to the biggest houses in the village. The people came out with fire sticks. Squanto said, "We come as friends." The leaders, William Bradford, John Carver, and Miles Standish, agreed to talk.

During the meeting, Squanto saw a basket of seeds made by his own people. He decided to stay with the settlers called Pilgrims.

Squanto helped the Pilgrims grow crops, hunt, and fish for food. When fall came they had a Thanksgiving feast. The Pilgrims invited the Indians to the feast. Squanto felt proud and at peace after helping the Pilgrims.

The Pilgrims arrived in the New World in 1620. Before they had chosen a suitable site for their settlement, it was late in December. On Christmas Day, the first work party went on shore. Houses were built, and streets were laid out. The winter was an ordeal for the Pilgrims. Over 1/2 of them died before spring arrived. The Pilgrims had seen Indians only at a distance. On March 16, however, a single Indian walked into the town. His name was Samoset, and he was able to speak English. His skill with the language was limited, and the Pilgrims had difficulty understanding him. Samoset left, but he returned the next day with an older Indian whose name was Squanto. This Indian had been in England and spoke the language with more skill than Samoset. Squanto's story was remarkable. He was a Patuxet Indian. He had been born in a village which used to be located near the site of New Plymouth. As a young man, he encountered his first white men there. The year was approximately 1605-1610, and the men had come on a trading ship. Squanto spent some time with them, learning their language and helping them in their dealings with other Indians. They treated him well, even giving him clothes to wear. When they were ready to leave, they invited him along--back to England. He agreed, even though his mother begged him not to go.

In England he lived with the family of Charles Robbins, one of his friends on the ship. For a while, he was part of an "Indian exhibit" on a London stage. Squanto soon became homesick, and his friend did his best to find a way for him to return to America. Finally Robbins contacted Captain John Smith who was planning another voyage to the New World. Smith agreed to take Squanto along. The year was 1614 when Smith's expedition sailed. There were two ships: one commanded by Smith and the other in charge of Capt. Thomas Hunt. Squanto was to help Smith for a short time, and then he would return to his village. When the ships reached America, they separated. Squanto traveled with Smith, interpreting when Indians were encountered. Finally, Smith gave him permission to travel to his home. On his way, Squanto encountered Hunt; and he was tricked into going on board his ship. There he was imprisoned along with 20 other young Indians. All of them were taken to Spain, where they were sold as slaves. Luckily for Squanto, he fell into the hands of a group of friars at a Catholic monastery. After they feed him, they taught him about their religion. They were so convincing that he became a Christian. Next, they obtained passage on a ship so he could leave Spain. It was returning to England; the year was probably 1616. From this point on, Squanto's one aim was to do whatever was necessary to survive his ordeal so that he could return to his people. He spent three years in England, working as a servant in the home of John Slanie. Still hoping to find a way home, Squanto asked Slanie to help. Even though his family was sorry to see Squanto go, Slanie located a ship captain who was making a voyage to the New World.

It was 1619 when Squanto again arrived in North America. He interpreted for the captain in his dealings with local Indians but was finally allowed to begin his journey home. He'd been gone for approximately 10-12 years. When he went to the place where his village should have been, Squanto found no trace of his family and friends. He learned that recently a "Great Sickness" had struck his people. Every one of them had died. He had crossed the Atlantic Ocean four times, only to be terribly disappointed. He was the last of his tribe. Squanto was invited to live in a nearby Wampanoag village. The chief was named Massasoit. Squanto lived there until the Indians heard about the white men who were building a town near the place where his tribe's village used to stand. When Samoset came back from his visit to the newcomers, he asked Squanto to accompany him when he returned. The date was March 22, 1621. The two spoke to the settlers for a while, and then Chief Massasoit came in for a meeting.

The Pilgrims and Indians worked out an agreement that would allow the two groups to exist peacefully. This treaty was in effect for over 50 years. None of the Pilgrims was ever hurt by an Indian. When the rest of the Indians left New Plymouth, Squanto decided to stay with the Pilgrims. Their food supply was rapidly being consumed. William Bradford wrote later that Squanto was a " ... special instrument sent by God for their good beyond their expectations ..." Squanto was of great help to the Pilgrims. He helped them build warm houses, an improvement over those in which they had lived during the first winter. He taught them when to plant their corn crop: they watched the leaves on the trees - when they were the size of a squirrel's ears, corn should be planted. Then he showed them how to plant the corn. Into a hill, they were to put several seeds along with a fish for fertilizer to help the corn grow rapidly. Without his help, there would not have been 20 acres of corn produced that year. Later he taught the women how to cook the corn. Squanto also advised the Pilgrims in their relations with the Indians. He helped them make friends, acted as interpreter, guided them on trading expeditions, and gave advice on bargaining with the natives. Squanto remained with the Pilgrims for about 18 months.

When he returned to the Wampanoag village, he tried to challenge Massasoit for leadership of the tribe. He was unsuccessful; all he managed to do was anger most of the members. After this, he was considered to be the enemy of the Wampanoag.

Squanto died from a fever in 1622. He is still remembered and honored, nearly 400 years later. If Squanto had not been there to help out, perhaps none of the Pilgrims would have survived. Without his help at New Plymouth, their story might have ended in a different way. In saving the English families, Squanto found a new family and a new tribe to live for. One of the Pilgrims said this about Squanto: " ... He desired honor, which he loved as his life and preferred before his peace ..."