Stories of the Pilgrims - M. B. Pumphrey


When Massasoit and his people returned to their camp in the forest, Squanto did not go with them.

"Many, many moons ago wigwams of Squanto's people stand here, and here," he said, pointing to the shore and the brookside. "Many canoes on shore. Many camp fires on hillside."

"Did your tribe move to some other place, Squanto?" asked Elder Brewster.

"No," answered the Indian, sadly. "Black sickness come. Papoose all die. Squaws all die. Chief and braves die. Only Squanto get well. Squanto come home now, and live with white brothers."

The Pilgrims were glad to have Squanto live with them, for he helped them in many ways. He knew every path in the forest and was their guide when they went there to hunt. He knew just where the deer went to drink, and in which streams to find the busy beavers.

He taught the pilgrims how to make a trap near the spring where the deer came to drink. He bent down a strong branch of a tree and fastened it to the ground. When the deer stepped upon the end of the branch, it caught his foot and flew up, carrying the deer high in the air.

"This is a cruel trap, Squanto. We will never use it if we can get food any other way," said William Bradford.

"No, better to shoot deer," answered Squanto. "Poor Indian not have gun like white man."

He taught them how to make a snare of willow twigs and put it in the brook to catch fish. He knew how to make a bear trap of logs, and how to call the wild ducks and other birds.

Squanto could go through the forest without making a dry leaf rustle or breaking a twig. He could lie down on the ground and move through the tall grass without being seen.

When the Pilgrims and the Indians met to trade, Squanto could always tell each what the other said. "How could we ever talk to the Indians if Squanto should die?" thought Edward Winslow. "I think I will learn the Indian language while Squanto is here to teach me."

So the Indian became Winslow's patient teacher, and when these two were together they used the Indian language. This pleased Squanto very much, for English was hard for him.

The printed page was a great wonder to Squanto. He called it the "speaking paper." Indians sometimes wrote with paint upon a great flat rock, or with a bit of charcoal upon a piece of birch bark, but their writing was all in pictures.

Squanto was eager to learn to read the white man's books. "Teach Squanto to make paper talk," he said to Winslow one day.

[Illustration] from Stories of the Pilgrims by M. B. Pumphrey

Indian picture

So that evening when the candles were lighted, Squanto came to Master Winslow's house for his lesson. There were no primers or first readers in Plymouth then, but Winslow took down his Bible. It was the book from which he had learned to read; he would teach Squanto from it.

Every evening the Indian and his friend bent over the old book, spelling out its wonderful stories.

One day Squanto came in from the forest, carrying a little oak branch in his hand. Pointing to its tiny leaves, he said, "See! oak leaves big like squirrel's foot. Time to plant corn now."

Then he went down to the brook and set a snare to catch the fish as they swam up the stream. The next morning Elder Brewster met Squanto coming from the brook with a large basket full of little fish.

"Why, Squanto!" he said. "What are you going to do with those tiny fish? They are too small to eat."

"Indians plant corn in these fields many times," answered Squanto. "Ground hungry now. We must feed the hungry earth." So he showed the Pilgrims how to put two little fishes into each hill of corn. They were glad to do as Squanto taught them, for they had never planted corn before.