by Bill Nugent
On a Friday in mid March 1621 the Pilgrims received an unexpected visitor. His name was Samoset, an Algonquin Indian from Maine who spoke broken English he had learned from British fishermen. His first question was “Do you have any beer?” Samoset was given food and drink and soon left. He returned the following Thursday with a Pawtuxet Indian named Squanto who would prove to be of such help to the Pilgrims that it is doubtful they would have survived without him.
The Pilgrim’s governor, William Bradford, would later call him “a special instrument sent of God for their good, beyond their expectation.” The amazing chain of divinely providential events that brought Squanto to them was in many ways similar to the biblical story of Joseph in Genesis.
A Hebrew man named Joseph, one of the 12 sons of Jacob, was betrayed and sold into slavery by nine of his 11 brothers ( Genesis 37:23-28). Only his brothers Reuben and Benjamin were not in on the betrayal. Joseph was taken down into Egypt, resold into slavery yet was raised to a position of prominence and initiated a food storage program that saved Egypt in a famine.
In 1605, Squanto, whose original name was Tisquantum, was captured by English explorers and taken to England where he was taught English and questioned about the location of Indian tribes in New England and about suitable locations for future colonies. He was returned to his homeland in 1614 but was immediately recaptured by a rogue ship captain and taken to the slave market in Malaga, Spain.
He and more than 20 others were sold into slavery. Local friars from a nearby monastery, no doubt enraged at the injustice of chattel slavery, bought some of the Indians, including Squanto, and introduced them to Christianity. Squanto didn’t remain long at the monastery but joined up with an Englishman and sailed to London. He was returned to America again in 1619.
When Squanto encountered the Pilgrims in March 1621 it was just a month before the Mayflower and its remaining provisions set sail to return to England. God provided Squanto to the surviving Pilgrims at just the right time to teach them how to fish and to plant crops. Squanto immediately went and showed them how to catch eels which provided ready food.
He also told them that local creeks would soon be clogged with fish which would be making a spawning run. The fish were caught in abundance and some were put into the ground as fertilizer for the 20 acres of Indian corn. I always wondered why they used fish as fertilizer instead of just eating the fish but I surmise that the fish were in such over abundance that they were more than could be eaten or even dried for future food. Squanto was their interpreter and made sure they got a fair deal when trading for beaver pelts.
In profound gratitude for all of God’s wonderful provisions, William Bradford proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving to be held in October of 1621. Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoags and his tribe were invited. He arrived a day early with 90 Indian guests. He also brought food including venison, turkeys and even popcorn, an Indian delicacy. The festivities opened with a long prayer led by William Brewster. There were games and competitions, including target practice between meals. The day of thanksgiving was extended to three days.
In sum, observers can clearly infer that God’s provision of Squanto and the amazing turn of events that prepared Squanto and sent him to the Pilgrims were beyond the ordinary and reflected the supernatural intervention of God to provide for a suffering body of Christian people in answer to their prayers.