One Fall day I headed off to the library, my two kids in tow, to check out some Fall themed books to enjoy. One of the books I came across captured my attention. It was about the life of Squanto. As I read the book I was overwhelmed by the profound suffering Squanto endured and deeply touched by this tale of redemption.
But what really undid me was the realization that this was a significant part of my own story.
Squanto was a native American, one of the first nations tribes that were here long before the British colonists arrived. One day, as a young boy, he was minding his own business near the shore with his friends when they spotted a ship.
He was accustomed to occasional visits from friendly trading ships. So when the ship arrived and he and his friends were violently apprehended, it was totally unexpected.
As it turned out, these were slave traders and the ship was headed for Spain where Squanto was then sold as a slave to two priests. Fortunately for Squanto the priests were kind and taught him Spanish.
Squanto became close to the priests and shared with them his anguish and his longing to return home. The priests sent him on a ship to England and helped connect him with a family who could employ him so that he could save money to pay his way back to his homeland. In the mean time he was able to learn English.
After several years, Squanto was finally able to earn enough to pay his way to board a ship headed to New England. He was overjoyed that he would finally be reunited with his family and his people.
However, when he arrived back to the location of his village, he found there was nothing left. A neighboring tribe informed him that his people had all died of a disease that had WIPED HIS PEOPLE OUT.
Squanto was devastated! He was so depressed that rather than joining the neighboring tribe, he went off into the woods to live alone.
His friend from the other tribe would periodically visit him and one day brought news of a group of people who had experienced devastating loss from disease death and starvation just as he had lost his family.
When Squanto met with Governor Bradford and the Pilgrims of Plymouth colony he was moved with deep compassion for all they had gone through and endeavored to help them avoid another catastrophic year by teaching them how to thrive and live off the land in their new home.
After their first harvest, they gathered to celebrate their abundance – this is the gathering we now commemorate each year on Thanksgiving Day.
How had I missed this story in all the years of elementary school? I learned about the Pilgrims and how they were helped by the “Indians” but never had I heard these details about the story of Squanto. I was blown away!
You see, my genealogy traces back to Plymouth colony. One of my ancestors, Peregrine White, was born on the Mayflower. His father died during that first year.
Had Squanto never been taken as a slave, gone to England where he learned the language, and returned, the rest of the White family including Peregrine White, from whom I descended, likely wouldn’t have survived either.
Another crazy thing is that had Squanto not been unjustly captured, he probably would’ve died of disease with the rest of his tribe and who knows how the Pilgrim story might have played out.
In my family, we have an annual Thanksgiving tradition. Once we’ve had our fill of feasting, we go around the table and share one thing for which we are particularly grateful. That year, for me it was the miracle of Squanto, because with out him, I wouldn’t be here.
Whose shoulders are you standing on? Without those who’ve gone before you, you wouldn’t be here! Who’s lives are you thankful for?