Friday, November 28, 2008

Squanto: Remembered for Shirtlessness and Fertilizer

Totally authentic historical artistic rendering!
In honor of yesterday's holiday of American Genocide and Overindulgence, I thought I'd go ahead and write a post about Native American BFF of the Pilgrims, SQUANTO! Squanto was born in probably the 1580s to the Patuxet tribe in what is now Massachusetts. His full name was Tisquantum, but English speakers have always been lazy, and they shortened it to Squanto. Widely varying versions of his life story are available on the interwebs, so I'll just go ahead and summarize the parts that I like/that seem realistic-ish. So: according to some sources, Tisquantum was kidnapped by an English explorer named George Weymouth in 1605, along with some other Indians. They were brought back to England as souveneirs, pretty much. He was turned over to a Sir Ferdinando Gorges, and probably picked up some English at this time. Tisquantum headed back to North America with Ye Olde John Smith in 1612, who (according to Wikipedia, anyway) required some service of him, but then sent him on his way to walk back to his natal village. Then! While attempting to head home!* Tisquantum was rounded up by a douchebag named Thomas Hunt (one of J. Smith's underlings, supposedly) with some other Native people. Hunt threw them down below deck on a ship and brought them to Spain to sell them as slaves for, like, 20 pounds. One can only imagine this was a shitty trip. When some local Spanish Catholic friars figured out what was going on and took Tisquantum and the others who hadn't been sold yet and attempted to Christianize them. Tisquantum somehow escaped to London where he learned more English. The next part of the narrative is a little tricky, but it seems he attempted to return to his home village by joining up with a some sort of North American expedition that failed and had to go back to England in 1618. The next year, he managed to come back and found that his tribe, the Patuxet, and bunch of the tribes along the New England coast had been wiped out by a plague. It may have been TB, maybe smallpox, maybe both. So that sucked. So Tisquantum was hanging around in the area, having made some alliances with local Native bigwigs like Massasoit. Then the Pilgrims showed up. They eventually moved in to where the Patuxet had lived, what with it being empty with its former inhabitants being all dead and whatnot. Another English-speaking Indian hooked up Squanto with the Pilgrims and he was able to help them learn to fish better and to use fish guts as fertilizer for their crops. I bet their corn tasted kind of fishy. Ew. In a totally non-expoitative turn of events, you can now buy an awesome organic fertilizer called Squanto's Secret! But it seems that Squanto started playing both sides in his translating and peacemaking duties between the Pilgrims and the local Wampanoag Confederacy (Massasoit's crew). He would threaten the Indians by claiming he could get the Pilgrims to drop their plague on the tribes, and collected some sweet bribes. Massasoit started suspecting him and had him watched, and the Pilgrims never trusted him very much to begin with (what with him being brown and such, though he was quite articulate). Anyway, rumor has it that Massasoit may have had him poisoned in 1622. Tisquantum got a nosebleed, which apparently meant death to his people,** and died of some sort of illness. Suddenly. Totally not suspiciously. But what do we remember about Squanto? That he was buds with our religiously strident English ancestors? That he was at the first Thanksgiving? That he knew how to farm and shit? Yeah, that's pretty much it. Sounds like Squanto just kept getting screwed over and as a soon as he had the power to benefit from a situation, he took advantage. Can't blame the guy. Too bad about the kidnappings, decimation of his family, and the nosebleed and all. It's also too bad he didn't actually fight a bear.*** *Or according to other sources, in his first encounter with Europeans. **Which means I should have died hundreds of times over when I used to use that crazy allergy nasal spray in fifth grade that would cause me to wake up bleeding all the time. Can you say double pillowcases? ***BTW: Adam Beach is DREAMY. Esp. shirtless.

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