Squanto is a Native American who lived in the early seventeenth century in what is now the Northeast United States. When the English came to this area of America to settle, they became very fond of Squanto and used him as a translator due to his unique knowledge of the English language acquired through an earlier voyage to Europe. Squanto helped the Pilgrims adapt to their new surroundings by providing them with the knowledge that he and his ancestors used to survive when they first settled in this area. He became known as a friend to the English and a spokesman for his Native friends (Johnson p.2). However, in helping the English, Squanto realized the power he had obtained through his position and used it for his own gain against the Native Americans. He helped the English to destroy some Indian tribes and used trickery to obtain undeserved favors from many people in his own tribe. While Squanto was essential to the survival of the English in their American colonies, he betrayed his Native American friends in the process of providing the English with what they needed to survive (Johnson p. 2).
Squanto spent much of his life living in the Plymouth Colony teaching his newly acquired English friends how to survive in this foreign land. He helped them greatly in the area of growing and gathering food. Without the help of Squanto, the English never would have discovered many important methods involved in growing a decent crop on
the American soil. Squanto showed the immigrants how to plant corn in hillocks, using dead herring as fertilizer() after many failed attempts of growing while using their own
methods. He also taught them how to fish and where the best spots were to catch enough to feed the colony. These important tips were essential to the survival of the English. Squanto was also very helpful in establishing peaceful relations between the colonists and Indians. In his first meeting with the Plymouth colonists, Squanto was able to work out a peace treaty in order to keep either side from hastily attacking the other (Johnson p.2). He also acted as an interpreter and a guide to help make the English more comfortable around the indigenous people (). Without Squantos help, the Pilgrims would probably have had severe famine over the next year, and would have lived in constant fear of their indian neighbors(Johnson p.2); the English could not have survived without the knowledge that Squanto had given them.
However, the friendly side of Squanto is traditionally the only one taught to the American public, in which he is portrayed as an extremely friendly Native American who devoted much of his time and effort to helping the European settlers adapt to their newly acquired land. It is true that Squanto was a great help to the English settlers, however many modern texts, articles, and essays concerning Squanto neglect to include his betrayal of many Native American tribes in what is now Connecticut and Long Island(Vine p. 201 ). Many elementary educated students are led to believe that Squanto simply saved the newcomers from starvation and taught the Pilgrims how to survive(David p. 24). This misconception of Squanto is the exact opposite of what many Natives thought of him(Vine p.201). He became aware of his position with the English and began to threaten the indians by telling them he would release the plague
(Johnson p.2) on them if they did not do what they were told. He also provided the English with certain secrets that allowed them to easily defeat other Native tribes and control their land. Squanto was a key factor in the downfall of many tribes of that area, and he is not nearly as great a man as he is traditionally portrayed.
From an English point of view, Squanto could be considered a hero due to the importance of the information he provided for the English. Had he not helped them so graciously, they may have died during their first winter. Despite his great deeds toward the English, Squanto could also be considered a traitor. He betrayed his Native friends only to gain power for himself and also for the English. While he was essential to the survival of the Pilgrims, he betrayed his own people in the process of helping the English.
David, Lester. Squanto: A Remarkable Man. Boys Life.November 1995: 24
Johnson, Caleb. The History of Ttisquantum. Internet Explorer. Online. America
Online. 21 September 1999. 16:49.
Vine, Deloria Jr. Custer Died for Your Sins. New York: University of Oklahoma Press,
Winslow, Edward. Good Newes from England. London, 1624.