Thanksgiving, Squanto and the Providence of God

By Chuck Colson

Most of us know the story of the first Thanksgiving; at least we know the Pilgrim version. But how many of us know the Indian viewpoint?

Historical accounts of Squanto’s life vary, but historians believe that around 1608, more than a decade before the Pilgrims arrived, a group of English traders sailed to what is today Plymouth, Massachusetts. When the trusting Wampanoag Indians came out to trade, the traders took them prisoner, transported them to Spain, and sold them into slavery. It was an unimaginable horror.

But God had an amazing plan for one of the captured Indians, a boy named Squanto.

Squanto was bought by a well-meaning Spanish monk, who treated him well and taught him the Christian faith. Squanto eventually made his way to England and worked in the stables of a man named John Slaney. Slaney sympathized with Squanto’s desire to return home, and he promised to put the Indian on the first vessel bound for America.

It wasn’t until 1619, ten years after Squanto was first kidnapped, that a ship was found. Finally, after a decade of exile and heartbreak, Squanto was on his way home.

But when he arrived in Massachusetts, more heartbreak awaited him. An epidemic had wiped out Squanto’s entire village.

We can only imagine what must have gone through Squanto’s mind. Why had God allowed him to return home, against all odds, only to find his loved ones dead?

A year later, the answer came. A shipload of English families arrived and settled on the very land once occupied by Squanto’s people. Squanto went to meet them, greeting the startled Pilgrims in English.

According to the diary of Pilgrim Governor William Bradford, Squanto “became a special instrument sent of God for our good . . . He showed us how to plant our corn, where to take fish and to procure other commodities . . . and was also our pilot to bring us to unknown places for our profit, and never left us till he died.”

When Squanto lay dying of fever, Bradford wrote that their Indian friend “desired the Governor to pray for him, that he might go to the Englishmen’s God in heaven.” Squanto bequeathed his possessions to the Pilgrims “as remembrances of his love.”

Who but God could so miraculously convert a lonely Indian and then use him to save a struggling band of Englishmen? It is reminiscent of the biblical story of Joseph, who was also sold into slavery, and whom God likewise used as a special instrument for good.

Squanto’s life story is remarkable, and we ought to make sure our children learn about it. Sadly, most books about Squanto omit references to his Christian faith. But I’m delighted to say that my friend Eric Metaxas has written a wonderful children’s book called “Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving.” I highly recommend it because it will teach your kids about the “special instrument sent of God,” who changed the course of American history.


Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Chuck Colson was an Evangelical Christian leader who founded Prison Fellowship and BreakPoint. Prior to his conversion to Christianity, he served as Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973. He died in 2012 after recording this message about Squanto.  It is based upon Eric Metaxes’ book.

Use this link to learn more.



    • He might not have known the distinctions between various sects of Christianity. He might have been converted by a Catholic priest, but the Pilgrims and Puritans, who were not Catholic, were fleeing Catholic persecution.

    • We live in a country where we have the freedom to worship how we choose. I won’t tell you what or who to believe in. I was raised in the Catholic church , then joined a Baptist church, and then a non-denominational church. I don’t think of myself in a religion. I believe in God, Jesus His son, and the Holy Ghost. I also believe I have a personal relationship with Jesus. God sent His Son to die on the cross so that everyone can have everlasting life.

    • That’s quite a blanket statement to make, especially considering that virtually all people believe in some sort of god. It’s you atheists who are the very small anomaly.

  1. Yes, Squanto was a Catholic Christian. His life in some ways mirrors Saint Patrick: Much personal hardship, taken as a slave, received kindness and respect of strangers, finally released as a free man and helped others, even saving their lives.

  2. Yes DJ Tisquantum – Squanto was most likely baptized Catholic.
    “Squanto was Catholic: As a result of the papal decree (“Sublimis Dei”), the Catholic Church in Spain was opposed to the mistreatment of Indians, and opposed to bringing them to Europe against their will. Of course, the Catholic ideal did not always prevent slave trade on the black market. At Malaga, Thomas Hunt managed to sell most of his captives, and was about to sell Squanto when two Spanish Jesuit priests intervened. The Spanish speaking priests seized Squanto who somehow convinced them to send him home. Not knowing where “home” was, the priests arranged for Squanto’s passage as a free man on a ship bound for London. It is likely that the Jesuits even baptized Squanto as a Catholic. It would have been a way to assure his status as a free man. ” (These Stone Walls)

  3. Thanks for a great piece of history. This is similar to Pccohantas story of conversion. She spent two years studying the Christian faith before her baptism, which is portrayed in one of the large historical paintings in the rotunda of the capital in Washington. So devoted was she that she changed her name to Rebecca and toured Europe refusing to be called by her Indian name. Also of historical note, one of the first acts of congress in the newly formed United States of America was to sanction the printing of 25,000 Bibles to be distributed to the tribes.


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