What Are Some Historical Facts About Squanto's Tribe and Family?

Squanto was a member of the Native American Patuxet tribe that resided in present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts. Little is known about his life or family prior to his first encounters with Pilgrim settlers.

The now-extinct Patuxet tribe was a sub-division of the Wampanoag Confederation, a collection of multiple Native American villages that controlled most of what is now southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In the early 1600s, a series of plagues wiped out as much as 90 percent of the Wampanoag population, and the Patuxet in particular. Pilgrim settler Thomas Hunt kidnapped Squanto and a group of Native Americans with the intention of selling them into slavery in Malaga, Spain. After a group of Catholic priests saved Squanto and tried converting him to Christianity, Squanto returned home to Plymouth and found that his entire people had succumbed to disease.

Squanto, formally known as Tisquantum, later became a guide for the Pilgrims who settled his former homeland and acted as an interpreter between them and Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Squanto's involvement with the Pilgrims during their first winter in the New World is considered vital to their survival and long-term success in North America. He is credited with helping the Pilgrims learn to grow maize and other agricultural commodities. In 1621, a joint Pilgrim-Wampanoag feast to celebrate the successful harvest is considered the First Thanksgiving. The following year, Squanto became ill and died while serving as a guide for William Bradford.