Brief Description: Picture book tells the story of the life of the Native American Pokanoket man who welcomed English settlers and the harvest festival that is today celebrated as Thanksgiving.
Historical Era: 17th Century
Date Range: 1614-1621
Keywords: British Colonialism in North America, Captain Miles Standish, Captain Thomas Dermer, Captain Thomas Hunt, George Weymouth, John Slanie (or John Slany), John Smith, Massasoit, Mayflower, Native American Pokanoket, Native Americans, Samoset, Squanto, Thanksgiving Holiday, Tisquantum
Original Publication: 2000
Suitable for Grades: K-4th
Target Audience: Picture Book
Squanto, the Native American Patuxet man who helped the early settlers of Plymouth Colony survive, narrates his amazing story that took place over a six year period before the pilgrims arrived. In a few short paragraphs he quickly tells of his abduction by an untrustworthy English captain, their crossing the ocean to Spain, his sale to friars in Malaga, how the friars helped him to get to England, and his eventual return to New England five years after his kidnapping. The story is handsomely illustrated with paintings by Greg Shed.
Upon his return, Squanto learns that all of his family and friends from his village have died of the sickness brought by the Europeans. The narration does not dwell on what must have been a horrible experience. Instead of retreating into sadness or anger, Squanto is eager to assist the captain with whom he returned to make peaceful relations with other Native American groups, some of whom are suspicious and resistant to the English. One of these resistant groups, the Pokanoket led by Massasoit, takes Squanto prisoner after a hostile encounter.
When the Mayflower arrives in 1620 at the location of Squanto’s old village, Sqanto’s captor reluctantly agrees to let him act as an ambassador-like person to the new colonists. Squanto teaches the ignorant newcomers about local hunting, and how and what to plant. The crops the pilgrims brought with them do not fare well that fall, but the beans, corn and squash thrive. Their good harvest leads to a feast that we today commemorate with the Thanksgiving holiday.
Squanto is amazed by all of the changes that occurred in six years: the landscape, his own village, and himself. He is portrayed as thankful as he notes that the land gives to both Native Americans and English. In an author’s note, Native American storyteller Bruchac explains how personally inspiring he finds the story of Squanto. He also points out the importance of careful historical research, since the story of the first Thanksgiving is often presented with many errors.
More information about historic Patuxet Village can be found on the The Plimouth Patuxet Museums website. There are excellent resources to learn more about the indigenous Wampanoag people and the English settlers. Some resource pages are Teacher Toolkit, visiting Historic Patuxet Homesite, and more about the Wampanoag. There is even an excellent interactive game about Thanksgiving (it might take a few minutes to load on your PC.)