Squanto: A Warrior's Tale

by Katherine Stewart

December 1, 1995

Walt Disney's version of "Squanto" in the movie, Squanto: A Warrior's Tale is a fictional character. Although the plot of the movie is a basic view of his life from the time he was captured to the first Thanksgiving, there are some exaggerations. Many of the scenes are unknown if they are true and some are false compared to history. The movie decorates Squanto's life to make it a good, family movie .

The first part of Squanto's life is unknown. Historians do not know of the age of Squanto either, but they believed, when he died, he was in his twenties or thirties. Squanto belonged to the Patuxet tribe, who spoke an Algonquian dialect which was shared with many other natives that lived nearby. This meant that they were able to communicate with each other. The Patuxet tribe divided labor by sex, which was seen with most of the North American Indians. Men were supposed to hunt and fish. Not only did Squanto do this, but he was also a pniese in his band. As mentioned in the movie, he was chosen during childhood and had rigorous diets and training to prepare for his position. This position required courage and the ability to call the deity Hobbamock. This deity was able to inflict pain and kill those who did not favor him and he came in many forms. [1]

The land was very different before the Puritan colonists came to settle the land. According to records of what Squanto told colonists, there were about 2000 Indians living in Plymouth before the English came, brought diseases and pushed them off their land. The population of the surrounding area in contact with the Patuxet was between twenty to twenty-five thousand native inhabitants.

When Squanto was born marked the period when European explorers and traders began to move south of Canada. The Patuxet were not dependent, like northern Indians, on the Europeans for trade because there had been so little visits. By 1614, John Smith had discovered the Patuxet tribe through trading with other tribes. The Patuxet had a surplus of fur and became aquatinted with the Europeans, unlike what the movie portrays. (In the beginning of the movie, when the ship sails up to the shore, the Indians are scared. Why would they be scared if they are aquatinted with these people who have not harmed them yet?) Trading with Samuel de Champlain, Smith, and other traders taught Squanto some about European trade, diplomacy, and military. [2] This is where the movie begins in Squanto's life.

Smith had left for England, leaving Thomas Hunt in charge of the fishing crew to complete the voyage. According to history, Hunt used the friendly relationship of Smith and the Indians to lure twenty Patuxet men, including Squanto, onto the ship. Then they sailed on to Nauset and stole seven more Indians and sailed to Spain. Thomas Dermer tried to change Hunt's mind and treat the Indians kindly so they could help the Europeans adjust to the land and trade with the Indians. Hunt refused Dermer's wishes. The Indians were brought to Malaga, Spain, where Hunt tried to sell them as slaves. Some were sold while the other were taken by Friars to learn the Christian faith. What happened to Squanto during the next three years is not known. We do know that by 1617, Squanto was residing in a London home owned by John Slany who was the treasurer of the Newfoundland Company. This is where Squanto learned or improved his English. Slany lent Squanto as a guide to an unknown person who was making voyages to Newfoundland and Massachusetts. This unknown person lent Squanto to Governor John Mason of Newfoundland, who then lent him Thomas Dermer. This is the second time Squanto had met Thomas Dermer. Dermer was so impressed with Squanto that he brought him to Sir Gorges. Sir Gorges employed Squanto as a guide in New England. In march of 1619, he and Dermer left for New England. When they reached Patuxet, Dermer dropped Squanto off and died a year later from Indian arrow wounds. [3 ]

In the movie, instead of capturing twenty Indians, Hunt lured only a handful of Indians, five, and Squanto was the only one that was captured. Also, when Squanto came onto the ship, the Europeans had already been to the Nauset tribe and picked up only one Indian, not seven, who was named Epenow. When Squanto and Epenow, Squanto's new friend, arrived in England (not Spain), they were put on display for the commoners. Squanto was thrown in a pit with a grizzly bear to fight. In the middle of the fight, Squanto begins to sing and calms the bear down, then lets the bear loose into the crowd. Squanto and Epenow run for their lives, but Epenow is caught. Squanto steals a boat and sails away.

The next day, monks find Squanto beached, take him in, and heal his wounds. Squanto stays there and learns English and the ways of the monks. In return, Squanto teaches the monks ways to plant and introduces popcorn to them. During this, Sir Gorge, who owns Squanto, has had men looking for him because Squanto is his favorite Indian. Dermer tries to convince Sir Gorge to change his mind and make the Indians their friends so they could trade and get aid from them. Sir Gorges refused, believing that Indians are just "noble savages". [4] They raid the monks' house, after months of looking, but Squanto hides and the monks lie and say they have never seen him.

After the months of hiding, Father Daniel hears of a ship leaving for Plymouth. Knowing that that is Squanto's homeland, the brothers decide to sneak him onto the ship. Father Daniel and Squanto ride into town and are heading towards the ship when they see Epenow. Epenow is thrown into the pit and fighting four men. Squanto, being the hero he is, goes and saves Epenow, and in the meantime is captured. Epenow is being sent back to the New Land because he is not courageous like Squanto, who Sir Gorges adores. The day comes when the ship is sailing back to Plymouth, and Squanto happens to escape that day. He escapes by having mice, because the movie portrays him like a Beast Master, come and chew the ropes off his hands. With the help of Father Daniel, Squanto escapes from Sir Gorges' men and jumps onto the boat while on horseback and the ship is sailing away.

The first stop in New England is the Nauset land. The Indians and the English had a feast together and that night, while the English were sleeping, the Indians burned their ship killing all. Squanto is disgusted by the Nausets' behavior and begins a quarrel. That is when Epenow tells Squanto to go see what the English have done to his homeland. Squanto runs home. When arriving to his homeland, the village is abandoned. Most of his tribe had died from diseases and the others had flocked to nearby tribes. Squanto lived on his own until the Puritans came to the land and settled it. When the Puritans did arrive, Indian huts were still standing, so they knew that someone had lived there before and debated on whether or not they should stay. They decided to stay and the Indians and the Puritans had a confrontation. Squanto tried to stop it by yelling, "Hasn't there been enough bloodshed!".5 During Squanto's speech Epenow's son, Pequod, runs towards the English and is shot. The Puritans healed him, which began a friendly relationship with the Indians. Since the Puritans did not know how to survive on this land, the Indians showed them how to hunt and garden. This lead to the first Thanksgiving, which is the ending of the movie.

Massasoit Treaty with Pilgrims (see description)

According to history, the movie has false facts. After Dermer dropped Squanto off, Squanto lived with the Pokanokets and their sachem (chief) Massasoit. When returning, he found that "fewer than ten percent of its twenty thousand or more former inhabitants were still living, and they were now consolidated into a few bands". [6 ] Squanto confronted Massasoit and told him all the wonders of England. He spoke of how they could befriend the English and have them protect them from powerful tribes such as the Narragansetts. Less than six months after Squanto arrived, word reached Pokanoket that the Puritans had settled the Patuxet land. When the Puritans arrived, they thought it was peculiar that the land was cleared but there was no sign of life (unlike the movie where there were huts still standing). They aroused the nearby Indians by destroying Indian graves, houses, and grain stores, leaving unwelcome feelings with the Indians . Although they caused suspicions among the Indians, their situation changed during their first winter.

During their first winter, the Puritans lost half of their population to starvation and diseases. They were not experienced farmers so they were not prepared for the planting season. One day in March 1621, Samoset, a sachem of the Pemaquid River band, arrived at the settlement. He learned about the needs of the Puritans and returned a few days later with Squanto. The Pokanoket had witnessed the struggles of the Puritans during the winter and believed that this would be a good time to befriend them. This alliance enables the Pokanokets to break away from the Narragansetts, who have been controlling them, because of their strength. Samoset and Squanto set up a meeting to develop the treaty between the Pokanokets and the Plymouth colony. They each agreed to aid each other if under attack and to return any stolen property, such as tools. This treaty also changed Squanto's life greatly.

For all the services that Squanto did in order to develop this treaty, the Pokanoket freed him. They let him return to his home land, which was now the colony, to become a "guide, interpreter, and diplomat for the colony". [7] He began by teaching the Puritans how to plant corn, by using fish fertilizer. Also, he helped create peace between the colonists other bands in the Cape Cod area. Squanto's importance to the colony was so great that when he was captured by an anti-English band, a small military from Plymouth came to his rescue. The Narragansetts were not pleased with Squanto's actions because their trading was being affected by this treaty. As result of their anger, they sent a snakeskin filled with arrows, threatening an attack. With Squanto's advice, the Puritans sent back a snakeskin of powder and shot which backed the Narragansetts off.

A second advisor was added to Plymouth, Hobbamock for reasons that are not quite clear. Squanto was not the only link between the colony and the Indians anymore, which upset him. Squanto designed a plan to "establish himself as an independent native political leader" and to weaken the Pokanoket's influence on the colonists. [8] He made up a rumor that Massasoit was planning an attack on the colony with the help of the Narragansett and Massachusett. Soon after the rumor, the Puritans learned the truth and even though they were angry with Squanto, they did not want him to leave. As a result, they protected Squanto from Massasoit's anger, which disrupted the relationship between the Pokanoket's and the Plymouth colony until Squanto dies. Squanto caused this uproar to uphold his "honor, which he loved as his life and preferred before his peace". [9] It is believed he had hatred towards the Pokanokets for threatening his position with the Puritans and for keeping him hostage when he returned from England. Squanto wanted to rebuild the Patuxet band, with the few survivors left, with him as their leader so he could uphold this honor he believed in. This plot failed because of the threats from Massasoit, Squanto could not leave the Plymouth colony. Since Squanto could not leave the colony, he became dependent on the colonists.

The last expedition that Squanto would help in was one to Monomoy. The Indians had attacked Europeans on earlier expeditions in the Monomoy area, which caused some tension. Squanto advised them to trade with these Indians. They did and left with eight hogsheads of corn and beans. This expedition marked a another friendly relationship with a local band, which would be the last the Puritans hold loyalty to. While departing, Squanto became sick and died.

As a whole, the movie is a basic plot of a part of Squanto's life. While in England no one knows for sure what happened to Squanto, so parts of it could be true. One example of the movie may be the fact that Squanto was put on display for the commoners to see. This could be very true, but fabricated with the fact he calms the bear by singing to him. Although some may be true about his adventures in England, there is also proof that some is false like the last part of his trip. He does not gallop on horseback and jump into a moving boat. Also, his last months of England were spent with John Slany, not with monks. Another misleading fact is that there were huts standing in the movie when the Puritans arrived because the land was cleared when the Puritans arrived. Along with other events, when the first Thanksgiving occurred is not clarified. Even in the movie there is not a specific time span from when the Indians befriended the Puritans to the first Thanksgiving, but it is a fact that Squanto was there. Also, there is never any mention, in resources, that Squanto was ever married as opposed to the movie.

This movie was made to entertain young children and to give them a feel for who Squanto was. Obviously it was directed towards children because Squanto is built up to be this man who is one with nature and is friends with all the animals. It is not a factual movie. As Roger Ebert said, " 'Squanto' is the kind of superficial, tidied-up, idealized history that might appeal to younger viewers. No thoughtful person will be able to take it seriously." [10]


  1. Neal Salisbury, "Squanto: Last of the Patuxets," pp. 228-231.
  2. Ibid, p. 229.
  3. Francis Dillion, The Pilgrims, pp. 155-57.
  4. Darlene Craviotto, "Squanto: A Warrior's Tale," Walt Disney Pictures, PG, 1994.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Salisbury, "Squanto: Last of the Patuxets", p.236.
  7. Ibid, p. 240.
  8. Ibid, p. 242.
  9. Ibid, p. 243.
  10. Roger Ebert, film review of "Squanto: A Warrior's Tale."


Dillion, Francis. The Pilgrims. Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1973.

Ebert, Roger. "Squanto: A Warrior's Tale" (film review).

Hoxie, Frederick E. Indians in American History. Harlan Davidson, Inc., Arlington Heights, Illinois, 1988.

Johnson, Troy. "American Historical Images on File: The Native American Experience" at the URL: http://www.csulb.edu/gc/libarts/am-indian/nae/.

Notson, Adelia White and Robert Carver Notson. Stepping Stones: The Pilgrim's Own Story. Binford & Mort Publishing, Portland, Oregon, 1987.

Salisbury, Neal. "Squanto: Last of the Patuxets" in David Sweet and Gary Nash, ed. Struggle and Survival in Colonial America. Berkeley, The Regents of the University of California, 1981, pp. 228-244.

Thomas, Kevin. "'Squanto' an Exceptional Family Film". Los Angeles Times, October 28, 1994.

Weeks, Philip. The American Indian Experience, 1524 to the Present. Forum Press, Inc., Arlington Heights, Illinois, 1988.

This paper was written by Katherine Stewart December 1, 1995, for American Civilization 17 taught by Dr. Steven Schoenherr