Squanto or Tisquantum, d. 1622, Native North American of the Pawtuxet tribe. He is sometimes thought to be the Native American taken to England from the Maine coast by George Weymouth (1605) and returned by John Smith in 1615, but it is certain that he was kidnapped by Capt. Thomas Hunt in 1615, lived in England, and returned (1619) to North America with Capt. Thomas Dermer. In 1621 he acted as interpreter in concluding a treaty between the Pilgrim settlers and Massasoit. Squanto became friendly with the Plymouth colonists, aiding them particularly in their planting and fishing. While acting as guide and interpreter on William Bradford's expedition around Cape Cod, he contracted smallpox and died.

Tisquantum, more commonly known today as Squanto, or 'Big Bean' (c. 1580s – November 1622) was a Patuxet Native American Indian who is best known for assisting the Pilgrims after their first winter in the New World. Tisquantum's assistance to the Europeans is remarkable because he was thrice kidnapped and enslaved in Europe before returning to America to find that his entire tribe had been wiped out by a plague brought by the European explorers. Today he is remembered fondly in white American folklore, especially regarding his role in the first Thanksgiving.

Early Life

Tisquantum was born sometime in the 1580s in the area near present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts. He was a member of the Patuxet tribe, part of the Wampanoag confederation of tribes, and part of the Northeastern Woodland cultural group of Native Americans, and part of the Algonquin language group of Native Americans.

His early life was likely characterized by the fishing, game hunting, subsistence farming, growing mushrooms, and wild food gathering practices typical to that time and place. The familiarity with these practices that he displayed when assisting the Pilgrims later in his life attests to this.

First Capture and Travel to England

In 1605, the young Tisquantum was kidnapped by Captain George Weymouth and his crew, who were investigating the financial potential of the coastal area for British investors. For nine years, he stayed in England with Sir Ferdinando Gorges of the Plymouth Company. In this time he mastered the English language.

First Return to America and Second Capture

In 1614, Tisquantum returned on one of Gorges' ships as a guide and interpreter, assisting with the mapping of the New England coast.

Soon after returning to his tribe in 1614, British Captain Thomas Hunt kidnapped Tisquantum and twenty-six other native peoples of the Nauset and Patuxet tribes. Hunt was planning to sell furs, fish, corn and captured slaves in Málaga, Spain. Hunt attempted to sell Tisquantum and a number of other Native Americans into slavery for 20 pounds apiece.

Sir Gorges, in A Brief Relation of the Discovery and Plantation of New England (London, 1622) wrote that some local friars, however, discovered what Hunt was attempting and took the remaining Indians, Tisquantum included, in order to instruct them in the Christian faith. He lived with the Friars for the next four years.

Second Return to America and Third Capture

After somehow finding passage from Spain to England, Tisquantum boarded with John Slaney, treasurer of the Newfoundland Company, in Cornill, England. In 1618, Tisquantum sailed as a guide and interpreter from Bristol, England to Newfoundland, intending to return home. Unfortunately, when Tisquantum arrived in Newfoundland, he was recognized by Captain Thomas Dermer, a former employee of Sir Ferdinando Gorges, who brought Tisquantum back to Gorges in England.

Third, Final Return to America

In 1619, Tisquantum traveled to the New England coast once again with Captain Dermer on another mapping expedition. Upon returning home to the site of his Patuxet village, he found that all of the inhabitants had died of a plague (presumably smallpox, brought by the previous British encounter), making him the only member of his tribe left alive. Tisquantum went to live in the Wampanoag village Pokanoket, led by Chief Massasoit.

Assisting the Pilgrims

Less than a year later, in 1620, the British Pilgrims, who had been aiming for Virginia, arrived on the Massachusetts coast and unknowingly decided to settle where Tisquantum had grown up, at the location of his deceased Patuxet tribe, modern-day Plymouth. Before the Pilgirms had chosen a suitable site for their settlement, it was late in December, so they were not able to plant any crops to sustain them through the winter. More than half of them died before spring arrived.

Samoset, a traveling native man from present-day Maine with some familiarity of English from the British fishermen frequenting his coast, visited them on March 16. On March 22, he returned with Tisquantum, who spoke English better than Samoset because of his extensive time in England.

Squanto, as he was called by the Pilgrims (who could not pronounce his full name), stayed with the Pilgrims from March 1621 to November 1622, assisting them in many ways. William Bradford wrote later that Squanto was a "special instrument sent by God for their good beyond their expectations." He helped them recover from their first difficult winter by teaching them the best places to catch fish and eel. He helped them to build warmer houses. Squanto also advised the Pilgrims in their relations with the Naragansetts. He acted as an interpreter, and guided them on trading expeditions.


Realizing that the other Indians of the area feared the English settlers (especially their guns and disease), Tisquantum began extorting his native neighbors, asking for tributes to help gain English favor and threatening plagues on those he disliked. At one point he attempted to trick the Pilgrims into a show of military action by claiming an Indian conspiracy against them, but was found to be lying.

Upon learning of Tisquantum's extortion and deceit, Massasoit, the sachem of the tribe that had adopted Tisquantum, ordered the Pilgrims to turn him over to him for execution. The Pilgrims were hesitant to give up such a valuable source of local information, but by the very peace treaty that Tisquantum himself had drafted they were obliged to turn him over, and so were prepared to do so. Luckily for Tisquantum, the British ship the Fortune appeared on the horizon, delaying the exchange. Massasoit did not end up pursuing his punishement.


In 1622, in present-day Chatham, Massachusetts, while on a trading expedition between the Pilgrims and the Cape Cod native people, Tisquantum became ill with "Indian Fever," began to bleed from the nose, and died. He is buried in an unmarked grave on Burial Hill in Chathamport, overlooking Ryder's Cove. Peace between the two groups lasted for another fifty years.

Modern-day Influence

Squanto: A Warrior's Tale is a 2004 film loosely based on the life of Tisquantum.

Squanto was referenced by Stevie Wonder in the song Black Man from the album Songs in the Key of Life.


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