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Member of Mass. tribe takes issue with version of Thanksgiving story

~ Guest Opinion

In response to your guest opinion column “The Last of the Patuxets: A Thanksgiving Story” I am compelled to ask the author to please acknowledge that his account is pure fantasy. I can appreciate that Robert Alan Ward attempts to tell the critical backstory of the arrival of the Mayflower and founding of Plymouth colony, but by layering fiction over fact he does a great disservice to those of us who work tirelessly to preserve an accurate and balanced account of what actually took place.

It is true that Tisquantum, better known as Squanto, was the last known survivor of Patuxet having been kidnapped a year before a plague wiped out his village that ultimately became Plymouth colony. It is also true Squanto returned a year before the Pilgrims arrived and became an invaluable interpreter. Few other details of his life and times are known but Ward takes liberty to give Squanto a birth year, ambitions and parents who reluctantly allow him to sail away at the age of 13 with George Weymouth.

While Weymouth did in fact explore the New England coast in 1605, he certainly wasn’t operating a trans-Atlantic cruise service for adventure seeking teenage boys.

James Rosier who sailed with Weymouth published his “true relation of the voyage” in which he shamelessly described the enticing of two Native men with a box of peas.

“ . . . we used little delay, but suddenly laid hands upon them. And it was as much as five or six of us could do to get them . . . For they were strong and so naked as our best hold was by their long hair on their heads . . . “

And while early interpretations of primary source material suggested Squanto may have been among the five taken by Weymouth, the theory has been debunked by modern scholars who also find no indication that any natives went willingly with Weymouth.

It would take more than a single opinion column this to unpack all of the imagined details willfully portrayed as truth in Ward’s ode to Squanto from his homesick return nine years later to his “bequeath of all his possessions to the Pilgrims as remembrances of his love.”

It is yet another example of glorifying the objectification of American Indians in the name of Manifest Destiny, in other words, because the Pope sanctioned it.

Ward uses these made-up details to make it appear that well-meaning Christians enticed young Squanto to experience a better life. Never mind that this is patently false, he leaves no room for the consideration that the Wampanoag of the 17th century were sophisticated in lifestyle and society with language, spirituality and governance – a form of governance that ultimately inspired the democracy we know in this country today.

For a more balanced truth of the occurrences that led up to colonizing Plymouth and that infamous first harvest feast, I urge readers to visit the website for Plymouth 400 Inc. ( In preparation for the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Mayflower’s arrival in 2020 the website shares information on events, activities and well researched materials that are inclusive of the story from the Wampanoag perspective.

Kutaputash (thank you)

Paula Peters is a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe.

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

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