Saturday, November 25, 2017

He did it again

If you don't read John C. Wright's work, you're missing out. A recovering lawyer and reporter, Wright can WRITE. Guy's an artist. On Thanksgiving, where I write with sarcasm and poor wit, Wright hits it out of the park with an immensely thoughtful post.

Most literate people of my generation know the story of Squanto and the Pilgrims. I will recount it in brief for those of you who went to public school.
The ship was blown off course by storms, failed to make port, and put it at Plymouth. Here they found fields already cleared, and maize stored up, but no people. Had these things not been here, or had there been any hostile Indians in the area, the Pilgrims surely would have died.
Even with this help in place, that winder, the colonists suffered a dramatic death toll due to disease and starvation. Half were dead, and the half a dozen hale and healthy folk in the colony tended to the others, dressing meat and cleaning and changing their soiled clothing for them: five or so nurses tending fifty or so sick and doing all the other labor of the colony besides.
They had seen no Indians save for a few who stood aloof, running away when approached, or who stole some tools left unwatched during dinner.
Winter ended. In March, an Indian came forth from the woods speaking perfect English. His name was Squanto. Befriending the Pilgrims, he showed them were to find fresh springs of water, where and when to fish, where and how to grow maize (which we Americans to this day call corn) and how to make popcorn.
His story is dramatic and terrible: for he and four others had been lured aboard an English ship, captured, enslaved, given away, used as a native guide, and abducted a second time to be sold to the Spanish. Squanto was saved by a Franciscan friar and set free, and spent years looking for a way home from Europe.
Meanwhile his tribesmen back home had come across sailors shipwrecked on the American shores, whom they slaughtered, except for three, whom they enslaved, and sent around from chieftain to chieftain to be tortured for their amusement.
The Europeans, however, carried diseases to which the Northern Americans had never developed any immunities. Before ever the first Pilgrim set foot on Plymouth Rock, the Patuxet Indian villages were wiped out by plague so swiftly that the Pilgrims found their huts still standing, eerie ghost towns, with the dead unburied. The surviving Indians naturally feared a curse and fled the area, so that by mere happenstance the one spot in America that was unoccupied was where the storm-tossed Pilgrims were driven ashore.
Squanto had labored for a shipbuilder in London and eventually made his way back to Newfoundland, and, later (on John Smith’s ship) to New England. Here found all his family dead and his tribe practically extinct.
So the storm just so happened to blow the Pilgrims into the only spot on the coast where there was food and cleared fields waiting for them, no enemies, and the one Indian on the continent who spoke perfect English happened to be living there.

     Read the whole thing. HERE Picking a selection was difficult. It truly doesn't encompass this lovely post. 



RustyGunner said...

The full story just adds richness. Massasoit Ousamequin had travelled from near present-day Rhode Island to Plymouth Colony with an entourage including Tisquantum (Squanto) and another Sachem who knew a little English to investigate these settlers. Prior visitors had never been allowed to remain ashore long, but Massasoit had a problem. The epidemic that almost destroyed his people had not affected the neighboring (and hostile) Narragansett people, and the Wampanoag confederation was at risk of being overwhelmed. Massasoit was gambling that an alliance with these Englishmen would give the Narragansett enough pause to leave them in peace.

Massasoit’s fellow Sachem approached the colony first, and then Tisquantum. There was panic and a rush to arms when Massasoit and the rest of the party appeared, but unusually for Colonial history cooler heads prevailed and negotiations proceeded amicably.

The peace between the Wampanoag and Plymouth Colony lasted 50 years. The Pilgrims flourished, the Narragansett stayed put, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Anonymous said...

The Squanto story v. the Squanto myth is one of the great bios of all time. He kept a positive outlook no matter how many times he'd been beguiled and mistreated.