Squanto the Renaissance Indian

Amasnic Fact Off!!!

The first words between Indians and Pilgrims, were, “Do you have any beer?”


Yep, the first meeting between Indians and Pilgrims was pretty different from the scenes of naive savages that scholastic story books paint.

Let’s go back to March of 1621: after half of the 100 Pilgrims had died over the winter, a lone Indian walked into their settlement. Speaking English, he said, “Hello. I’m Samoset. Do you have any beer?”

In Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers, documents describe how the Pilgrims gave Samoset food: “He asked some beer, but we gave him strong water, and biscuit, and butter, and cheese, and pudding, and a piece of mallard; all which he liked well.”

Samoset had learned English from the European fishermen who arrived before the Mayflower brought the Pilgrims to the New World. He introduced the Pilgrims to other Indians, including Tisquantum (known as Squanto) who spoke English even better than Samoset.

The Story of Tisquantum

Fifteen years earlier, Squanto was kidnapped and arrived in England about the time Shakespeare was penning Macbeth. He finally made it back to the New World aboard John Smith’s ship in 1613, but was kidnapped again. This time, he was taken to Malaga, Spain, to be sold into slavery. Instead, he was rescued by some Spanish monks who freed him.

Squanto and William Bradford
Squanto went back to London for a few years, worked for John Slainey, then traveled to Newfoundland, and then back to England. Finally, in 1619, he returned to his American homeland.

Unfortunately, when he got home he found his entire Patuxet tribe had been wiped out by smallpox. The nearby Wampanoags adopted him, and then in 1621, Squanto settled with the Pilgrims.

It was Squanto, the world-traveling, multilingual native who had already lived for years in London and Spain, who taught the Pilgrims how to fertilize their crops and showed them where to fish. In 1622, still living with the Pilgrims, Squanto caught a fever and died.

Read more about Squanto: Squanto.
Read more Amasnic Fact Offs: Amasnic Fact Off Archive.

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