The fourth Thursday in November is almost upon us and if you’re anything like me, you can’t wait to enjoy the blessings of food and family. Many stories circulate the Thanksgiving dinner table, and I would like to share another one of a language hero that you may or may not have heard before. Here is the true story of Tisquantum, commonly known as Squanto.
A Tragic Loss
Historians speculate that Squanto was born to the Patuxet tribe in 1585 near the modern-day town of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Kidnapped in 1614 by English explorer Captain Thomas Hunt, he made the long journey across the sea where he worked as a slave and shipbuilder. During this time there, he received informal language training in English from his master, John Slany. When Squanto returned to the New World, hopeful of seeing his loved ones after years of separation, he found that his entire village had been struck down by European diseases. I imagine Squanto standing at the edge of the abandoned village in tears of bitter disappointment, mourning the loss of his family and friends. Out of the soil of tragedy, death and suffering, scars that remain with us for life, bright flowers can push through where we least expect them and make a difference for good in the world.
A Language Hero
By the time that the Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth in 1621, Squanto had become a member of the nearby Wampanoag tribe. With his knowledge of English and the local Algonquian dialects, Squanto was able to act as a diplomatic mediator between the English and various Indian tribes, translating and negotiating various agreements and navigating misunderstandings. For example, when the Nauset tribe from Cape Cod kidnapped one of the Pilgrim’s children, Squanto was able to negotiate terms to release the child, and probably prevented a war that most likely would have wiped out the Pilgrims. In addition, Squanto helped teach the Pilgrims basic survival skills, such as how to cultivate local crops and find water. He was an incredible man with an incredible story.
This Thanksgiving, as you gather to swap delightful dishes and stories alike, don’t take your loved ones for granted because time with them is precious. If you want to open up a “New World” of possibilities for your child, consider investing into them learning a second language and culture. Cultural Bytes’ One-on-one tutoring program is a good place to start.