The holidays are officially here and Thanksgiving Day will soon be upon us. During the month of November, we get lots of customers looking for pilgrim and Native American costumes for school plays, projects, and presentations. They’re busy learning about the history of Thanksgiving, but how much do you remember about how this American celebration came to be? This month, we want to share some interesting facts and tidbits about the important people and events that shaped one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the United States.
For our feature, we want to put the spotlight on a very important historical figure named Squanto. The early pilgrim settlers who came aboard the Mayflower may not have survived without his intervention. Imagine traveling for months across the sea to a foreign land, not knowing what to expect, to find a stranger who not only knows how to speak your language, but is willing to give you a helping hand! Squanto’s life experiences and the chain of events that led him to meet the pilgrims forever shaped history.
Squanto was born in a Patuxet village in what is presently known as Plymouth, Massachusetts. He was captured by Captain George Weymouth in 1604 and brought to England where he was trained to be an interpreter. He later returned to the Americas in 1614 when he accompanied John Smith as a guide. Unfortunately, he was once again kidnapped and sold into slavery by one of the men on John Smith’s crew. Somehow, Squanto was able to escape and made his way back to his homeland to find his tribe has been wiped out by a plague. He sought refuge from a neighboring tribe, the Wampanoags.
In 1621, he was introduced to the pilgrims and acted as a translator and liaison between the Wampanoag tribe and the pilgrim settlers. He taught them how to plant crops and fish which helped the pilgrims rebound from a horrible winter which wiped out almost half of the settlers’ population. It is said that later that fall season, to celebrate a bountiful harvest, the pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe held a feast which marks the first celebration of what we now know as Thanksgiving.
His contribution to American history ultimately led to one of the most widely celebrated holiday in the United States and he will forever be remembered for his impact on the lives of the early American settlers.