22 November 2018

Squanto, Hobomok, and the Pilgrims

Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen, 1995, Excerpts

In 1614 a British slave raider seized Squanto and two dozen fellow Indians and sold them into slavery in Malaga, Spain. What happened next makes Ulysses look like a homebody. Squanto escaped from slavery; escaped from Spain, and made his way back to England. After trying to get home via Newfoundland, in 1619 he talked Thomas Dermer into taking him along on his next trip to Cape Cod.

Squanto set foot again on Massachusetts soil and walked to his home village of Patuxet, only to make the horrifying discovery that he was the sole member of his village still alive. All the others had perished in the epidemic two years before. Squanto threw in his lot with the Pilgrims.

As translator, ambassador, and technical advisor, Squanto was essential to the survival of Plymouth in its first two years. Like other Europeans in America, the Pilgrims had no idea what to eat or how to raise or find it until Indians showed them. William Bradford called Squanto a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation.” He directed them how to set their corn, where to take fish, and to procure other commodities, and was also their pilot to bring them to unknown places for their profit.” Squanto’s travels acquainted him with more of the world than any Pilgrim encountered. He had crossed the Atlantic perhaps six times, twice as a British captive, and had lived in Maine, Newfoundland, Spain, and England, as well as Massachusetts.

Squanto was not the Pilgrims’ only aide: in the summer of 1621 another Indian, Hobomok, lived among the Pilgrims for several years as guide and ambassador. Hobomok helped Plymouth set up fur trading posts in Maine, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Europeans had neither the skill nor the desire to “go boldly where none dared go before.” They went to the Indians.

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