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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Thanksgiving for Squanto

Squanto meets the Pilgrims
This Thanksgiving, I want to publicly declare my gratitude for Squanto, an unsung hero in history. Squanto was a Native American, who, through service, saved countless lives—including my own. And perhaps even yours.

We don't know a lot of details about Squanto, but here's what we do know:

Born in 1585, near the place we now know as Plymouth, Massachusetts, Squanto was a member of the Patuxet tribe. In 1605, he and four other Native Americans were captured by the English and taken to England to be slaves. While there, Squanto learned English and tried, numerous times, to return home. In 1619, Squanto joined an exploratory expedition to the New World (led by Captain John Smith) and finally returned to his homeland. Upon his arrival, Squanto learned that a plague (possibly smallpox) had decimated his tribe. After everything that had happened, Squanto had come home to discover that he was, essentially, the last of his people.

It is difficult for me to imagine how Squanto must have felt—to be taken from everything he'd ever known—to be taken from his family—to be brought to a foreign country as a slave. Then, after fourteen years of doing everything he could to return home, he learns that it's all gone—that his family, his friends and all of his people are dead, killed by a European disease.

Squanto left his homeland (which was literally covered with the bones of his people) and joined the Wampanoags, a nearby tribe.

Years later, the Pilgrims, seeking to build a "better country" arrived in the New World and settled on the land that was once Squanto's home (they, themselves, described it as a land littered with bones). The Pilgrims were unprepared for life in the New World and about half of them died during their first winter. For a time, it seemed as though the Pilgrims had no hope.

Then, on March 22, 1621, a miracle happened. The Pilgrims were met by a man named Squanto—a Native American who, miraculously, spoke English. Squanto helped the English recover from the winter, taught them how to plant corn and other crops, and negotiated peace and trading relations with the Wampanoag Confederation. These miraculous acts of service (yes, miraculous) ultimately saved the Pilgrims from certain destruction and led to the formation of the American nation we know today.

Of course, history is always a bit more complicated than that. There were, of course, other factors and considerations involved, and things we just don't know. But it doesn't change the fact that Squanto, a Native American, saved the Pilgrims.

Please stop for a moment and consider the irony: here was a man who, as a direct/indirect result of the English, had lost everything. He had been captured, treated as a slave, and kept from his homeland for fourteen years. Then, after returning home he found that he had lost everything.

And yet, because of Squanto, because of his service to the Pilgrims, a people—and a nation—was saved. We have everything because of a man who lost everything. I, myself, can trace my ancestry back to the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Squanto didn't just save them—he saved me. And perhaps he saved someone in your family line—perhaps he saved you.

So, this Thanksgiving—and every Thanksgiving from now on—I express my gratitude for Squanto, the man who saved a nation by serving a people.

This Thanksgiving, consider your own life and think of those whom you might serve. You never know how your service might impact a person, a people, or a nation, for good.

Sources:
Squanto - Wikipedia.org
An Article on Huffington Post
Tisquantum - Mayflower.org