Wise Massasoit, Friendly Samoset, and Sneaky Squanto

On March 16, 1620 a native who spoke English approached the Pilgrims.  He was a man who enjoyed to travel and lived where the English ships had come to fish, learning English.  His name was Samoset.  Samoset returned to Massasoit’s camp with news that there was a group of English families suffering from starvation.  Six months earlier, Massasoit had taken in a despairing Squanto, who had discovered that his entire Patuxet tribe was wiped out by pestilence.  Massasoit and friends, Samoset, and Squanto went to meet the Pilgrims.  Gifts were exchanged, drums and trumpet sounded, the Governor kissed the Chief’s hand, and a peace treaty was written.  The chief would return to his home some 40 miles away.  Squanto would live with the Pilgrims and interpret for them after this meeting.  He showed the Pilgrims how to plant corn using Indian farming, fertilizing the corn with fish.  Squanto taught them where and how to fish, how to hunt deer, plant pumpkins with the corn, tap trees for maple syrup, hunt beavers, use herbs, and acquainted them with unknown places that would become profitable.  Earlier in Squanto’s life he had been kidnapped by Captain Hunt who tried to sell him as a slave in Spain.  He ended up in England with a merchant in London.  He later worked in Newfoundland and other places nearby, refining his English.  In future years, Squanto would “play games” with the Indians.  He put fear in the hearts of the Indians by telling them he had the power to stir up the plague and make war.  He would enrich himself by getting gifts from them.  Massasoit was enraged by Squanto’s trickery and demanded that the Governor hand him over for Indian justice.  Because a shallop had just arrived and business was busy for the Pilgrims, the Governor neglected to hand Squanto over.  They were thankful that Massasoit did nothing.  In 1622, while on a trip on Cape Cod to help the Pilgrims, Squanto fell ill with Indian fever.  Bleeding much from his nose, which the Indians believed was a sign of death, Squanto asked the Governor to pray with him that, “he might go to the Englishmen’s God in heaven”.  He died within a couple of days, willing all of his belongings to his English friends.  The Indians admired the Governor and his friends.  They would work peacefully together for decades.

Sources from Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647

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