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How did Squanto learn English?

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Quick Answer

Squanto first learned English after being captured by English explorers and staying in England for several years. One account claims George Weymouth abducted Squanto in 1605 and brought him to Sir Ferdinando Gorges in England, who taught him English. Englishman Thomas Hunt captured Squanto to sell, but Squanto was freed in Spain. He went to England and stayed with John Slany, who, according to an alternate account, first taught him.

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How did Squanto learn English?
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Full Answer

There are two general versions of Squanto's abduction and how he came to learn the English language. Little factual or trusted historical sources currently exist, as of 2014, so the two accounts are not necessarily mutually exclusive or jointly exhaustive.

According to one account, Sir Ferdinando Gorges in England financed the expeditions to settle the New England area. George Weymouth was a captain on one of Gorges' ships to the area known as modern Maine. Weymouth took about five or six natives captive from the Maine area to show to Gorges. Some historians believe that Squanto, from the Massachusetts area, was one of those captured by Weymouth. Gorges taught the Indians, as they were called, English and made them guides. In this account, Squanto returned to the New World on Captain John Smith's 1619 voyage only to be seized by Smith's lieutenant to sell as a slave.

The other account of Squanto's journeys does not mention Weymouth. However, both versions identify Squanto as one of the Patuxet Indians abducted by Thomas Hunt, Smith's lieutenant. Hunt was supposed to keep trading in the Massachusetts Bay area when Smith returned with his other ships to England, but Hunt believed he could capture some of the native population to sell as slaves; this resulted in a massacre of the Patuxet. Hunt sailed to Spain, where the Spanish considered Indians full human beings. In this version, Squanto escaped from Hunt and came to England, where he stayed with shipbuilder John Slany. Slany taught Squanto English and arranged for safe travel to modern Newfoundland.

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