Pages Navigation Menu

Seeing History with New Eyes – Thanksgiving & Squanto

It’s Thanksgiving; why are you thankful?


Perhaps you are teaching your children the story of Thanksgiving this week.  You know that it is not enough to focus on turkey and football.  But, don’t stop by simply focusing on the Pilgrims, or even their thankful prayers to God.  Thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity to focus on the ever present, providential hand of God, accomplishing mighty works despite circumstances, sin and the failings of man.  It is a day to strengthen our faith, remembering that we are not alone, that God has an awesome plan, and that He is working it all together for our good and His glory.  History isn’t really about men.  But neither is it about simply acknowledging the presence and reality of God.  History – exciting, life-giving history – is about seeing how God has always been in control.  He reigns.

This Thanksgiving, teach your children to look for the hand of God – to see history with new eyes.

Do you know the story of Squanto?  As a young man, Squanto was captured by white men and forcibly taken to England where he was taught the English language so he could become a guide to future explorers. Sadly, as if this were not injustice enough, after being returned home, he was kidnapped yet again by Thomas Hunt to be sold as a slave.

Compared to Hunt’s other captives, Squanto’s lot was one of providential blessing. He was spared being sold in North Africa, where most slaves quickly perished from hard labor. Instead, he was brought to Malaga, Spain, a Catholic country. Seventy-seven years earlier, foreseeing European mistreatment of the Indians, Pope Paul III had issued a papal decree, opposing their mistreatment and enslavement. As a result, seeing Squanto sold, two monks intervened and rescued him. They treated him well and taught him the Christian faith.

Though it took many years, Squanto eventually made his way home.  Oh, how he longed to see his people again! But, his reunion was to be one of pain, not joy.  As he approached his home he heard nothing but silence. “Mother?” “Father?” Where was everyone?

The answer soon came. A mysterious plague had killed every man, woman and child of his Patuxet tribe. So complete was the devastation that the neighboring tribes shunned the area, convinced that the plague was the work of some great supernatural spirit.

Scarcely one year later, the Pilgrims arrived. They were naïve and sorely ill-prepared to face the winter. Though they had a charter in the Virginia colony, they were blown off course.  Numerous times they tried to correct this, but were prevented from doing so by weather and finally decided that this new destination was of God’s choosing. Upon arrival, they saw land, cleared, and seemingly belonging to no one – a gift. What they didn’t see was God’s hidden hand of protection. Angry at Englishmen like Thomas Hunt, the Patuxets had barbarously murdered every white man who had landed on their shores, and would have immediately killed the Pilgrims upon arrival. By God’s grace, they were now provided with prepared land as well as safety.

Despite his heritage and circumstances, Squanto inexplicably set aside his wrath to help the Pilgrims. Since he knew their language, he helped establish a peace treaty with the Indians of the land.  He also taught them how to survive. They had brought nothing to plant but wheat and barley. He showed them how to plant corn the Indian way, and by the end of the summer, twenty full acres of corn began to flourish. He taught them how to stalk deer, plant pumpkins among the corn, refine maple syrup, discern which herbs were good to eat and good for medicine, and find the best berries.  From him, they learned about the pelt of the beaver, which was in plentiful supply in America and in great demand throughout Europe. This would prove to be the Pilgrims’ economic deliverance, just as corn was their physical deliverance.

Jesus had always been with Squanto, even before he knew Him, controlling his steps. Had Squanto never been kidnapped and taken to England, he would not have learned English.  If he hadn’t been kidnapped yet again, he would have died of the plague and would not have learned about the true God. Had he not found the Pilgrims when he did, being willing and able to help them, the season for planting corn would have been missed and they would not have survived the winter.

Like Joseph of old, Squanto’s life is a testimony of the providence of God. He could truly say, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”


And we….are forever grateful.