Monday, November 7, 2011

What Squanto Knew

It's beautiful here...Indian Summer, I suppose.

We've been enjoying reading books off of our Thanksgiving Book List.  We've read two recently that I really liked: One book is about Squanto.  The other is about William Bradford

I've always liked William Bradford, mainly because of my connection to him.  If I'm counting my 'greats' right, I am a 9th great-granddaughter of William Bradford.  As luck would have it...Steve, my husband, is also one of his descendants.  I have a feeling there are a lot of us floating around...especially in Mormondom.  Obviously, W.B. was a great leader and an instrument in the hand of God.  He experienced much personal loss in his early life, but displayed great faith and resilience.  

On the other hand, I haven't really given much thought to Squanto, which is a shame.  I knew that Squanto had helped soften other tribes' opinions of the pilgrims, taught them how to plant corn, and basically saved the Plymouth settlement from starvation, but I didn't realize that years earlier he had been abducted from his land and taken to England to be traded as a slave.  Even during that experience he was courageous.  He was faithful and loyal.  He was a leader, and he was a survivor.  The book says he was "pniese": a man of courage.

It struck me that Squanto's experience prepared him for the vital role that he would play later on.  It was in bondage that he first became acquainted with the English language.  It was while crossing the ocean in a merchant/slave ship that he showed great wisdom and vitality of spirit.  He was not able to save his own people, who died of plague, but he could save the new inhabitants of his homeland. Instead of sitting back and letting them die, he graciously came to the aide of people he could have considered his former captors. 

What did Squanto understand that allowed him to act this way?  

What can we learn from Squanto?

It's interesting that what most of us label as tragedy in our lives is so often the source of amazingly useful blessings and insight.  William and Squanto were clearly destined to work together in mortality.  Their lives bear striking similarities.  Both lost family.  Both crossed the ocean.  Both were great leaders.

If only the Peace Prize had been around then...Squanto would have been a highly qualified recipient.  Clearly Squanto's story is just one more piece of evidence that God is aware of ALL of his children, that he has a plan for each one of us, that it is through our fellow man that God blesses us and meets our needs, and that there is no tragedy that the Lord can't use for our good and to bring about his divine purposes.  Squanto was truly an amazing man of courage.

As I was driving back home from picking up my kids at school today, I caught a glimpse of something quite beautiful.  I only beheld the scene for a split second as I was driving fast, but what I saw was pure poetry.  

A woman and her husband were standing on their own front porch.  The woman was crying.  Her face looked pained, like she was mourning something or someone.  A white-haired woman, who I think was her neighbor, was  standing on the porch too and with outstretched arms, she presented the crying woman with a big, bright bouquet of yellow mums.  I saw them begin to embrace and the woman's face begin to soften.  Then they were out of sight.

I'm so glad that I witnessed this interaction.  It really touched me.  I thought that the gesture of this good old neighbor echoed the actions of Squanto.  I could see him standing there with his arms full of corn outstretched to offer his help to people who must have also been mourning many losses after years of persecution, a long voyage, and a treacherous year in an unfamiliar wilderness.

I know that many people disparage what happened between white men and the natives of this land.  However, in this story, I can see the very best of human nature illustrated...and I am glad to see that Squanto's Christlike example still has visible parallels in our society today.  We need to demonstrate more of this...more caring, more embracing, more understanding, and more forgiving of one another.

The book that we read about William Bradford focuses mainly on his childhood.  In one story, William names his pet sheep "Mercy", because he has read that when the Lord is your shepherd that "mercy will follow thee all the days of thy life."

I am sure that mercy followed Squanto all the days of his life, because of his willingness to help and serve his fellow men and to do good to those who despitefully used him.  So what did Squanto know?  He knew that bad things happen in life, but that shouldn't keep us from doing good always.  In my mind, that is what made Squanto a man of courage.

We are going to talk about this during FHE tonight...and to remind us to follow Squanto's example, we are going to finish making this corn wreath found here.


  1. wonderful post and great idea for FHE. have a great week!

  2. It's interesting that you chose to focus on Squanto for FHE just as I had dug out an old unit from CopyCat Magazine to share on my blog about Squanto. I too was touched by his amazing history as I reread this unit. I thought I'd share this with you since your children might like to read other stories from the unit's book list about Squanto and the Pilgrims. Other fun activities are included. This can be found at

  3. Great post! We just picked up the squanto book from the library this week! I'm also a descendent of Gov. Bradford. Love the wreath- what a fun idea to paint with bubble wrap! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Ah, Jocelyn. You are a such a thinker.

    And I like the thinks you think!


  5. What a lovely post, and such a cute craft.

  6. We just read about Squanto this week as well, and the book compares him to Joseph being sold into Egypt. It was such an interesting insight. I love that Squanto can remind us that the Lord always has a plan, and if we're just willing to keep a positive attitude He will use us to make His plan happen. Thanks for the great thoughts, I have more to think about now!

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. You are right about "Mormondom" and the people at Plymouth. Joseph Smith had 7 (yes, seven) ancestors on the Mayflower. I guess Heavenly Father didn't want to take any chances! ;o)