Tisquantum, better known by his English name Squanto, was an American Indian guide and interpreter who was essential to the survival of the Plymouth colonists in their first years in the New World. A member of the Patuxet tribe, Squanto was kidnapped in 1614 by Englishman Thomas Hunt, a lieutenant under Captain John Smith.

After travelling to Spain, Hunt attempted to sell his native prisoners, but his plot was discovered by several local friars, who took the men instead. The clergymen attempted to convert the Indians, but Squanto convinced them to let him try to return home. He travelled first to England, where he took a position as a shipbuilder under John Slany and greatly improved his English. Slany brought Squanto with him to Newfoundland, but when the latter was unable to obtain further passage to America, he returned to England. At last, Squanto returned home in 1619, as part of an exploratory expedition. Finding that his tribe, along with many other Native Americans, had been wiped out by European diseases a year earlier, the Indian joined the Pilgrims at Plymouth, where he taught them maize cultivation and other means of surviving the harsh first winter.

In 1621, Squanto served as guide and translator for Stephen Hopkins and Edward Winslow during a diplomatic conference with the Wampanoag chief Massasoit, and he later returned to the tribe to gather information on the rebel leader Corbitant. During this second mission, he was captured and briefly imprisoned, and Miles Standish led a ten-man team to rescue the vitally important interpreter. Unfortunately, Squanto’s dealings with the two groups of people eventually led him to be distrusted by both parties, and Massasoit even assigned a second Indian to represent the settlers.

Squanto’s time in the colony was short-lived, and in 1622, while on his way back from a meeting with the Wampanoag, he fell ill with fever. Some speculate that the tribe may have poisoned him in their distrust; regardless, Squanto died a few days later, and his passing was a great loss for the Pilgrims who had come to rely greatly on the Native American.

Key events during the life of Squanto:

Captured by Thomas Hunt and brought to Spain.
  Rescued by Spanish friars and escaped to England.
Attempted to sail to New England but was unsucessful.
Returned to America as part of an exploratory expedition.
  Joined the Pilgrims in Plymouth, where he helped them survive their first winter.
Served as translator during peace dealings between the English and the Wampanoag.
Fell ill with fever and died.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
New England Indians  in  Indian History for Young Folks  by  Francis S. Drake
New England Indians  in  Indian History for Young Folks  by  Francis S. Drake
The Mayflower  in  Story of the Thirteen Colonies  by  H. A. Guerber
Squanto  in  Stories of the Pilgrims  by  Margaret B. Pumphrey

Image Links

Welcome, Englishmen.'
 in Indian History for Young Folks
Squanto Catching Eels
Squanto Catching Eels
 in A First Book in American History

Short Biography
Miles Standish Military advisor to the Plymouth colony. Arrived on the Mayflower.
William Bradford Governor of the Plymouth Colony of Pilgrims. Wrote the Mayflower Compact.
John Smith Adventurer, leader and early settler at Jamestown. Befriended Pocahontas.