The First Thanksgiving: A Story of Forgiveness and Redemption

The story of the first Thanksgiving is one of forgiveness and redemption. Most of us are aware that Tisquantum, perhaps better known as “Squanto” was the native American who helped the pilgrims survive their first winter in the “new world.”

What I hadn’t known was Squanto’s story. In 1611, Squanto, along with several other native Americans, was taken by Thomas Hunt, one of John Smith’s lieutenants, to be sold as a slave in Spain. Some local friars discovered what Hunt was up to and decided to take the native Americans in order to instruct them in the Christian faith. Squanto persuaded the friars to let him attempt to return to his homeland via an English ship.

Though his return took a few detours, Squanto finally made it home in 1619. To his horror, his tribe had been decimated by an infectious disease (smallpox?) likely brought by other European ships. Squanto moved in with a neighboring tribe and eventually met the Pilgrims from the Mayflower in 1621 where his village once was, a place the Pilgrims were now calling “Plymouth.” Rather than responding with anger or retaliation, Squanto helped these Pilgrims survive that next winter. By teaching them the best places to fish and the right techniques to fertilize their crops, the early English settlers began to thrive. The man whose own people had been eradicated by “European diseases” helped the European Pilgrims survive. Perhaps he was afraid of them. Or perhaps he was simply showing the same kindness and redemption that those friars in Spain had shown him.

I’m thankful for the Pilgrims and their courage. I’m thankful for Squanto and his kindness and strength to forgive. I’m thankful for the Catholic friars who saw a way to redeem a few lives from the slave trade and lead them to the forgiveness found in Christ.

Happy Thanksgiving!

[For a rough "wiki” on Squanto, click HERE. For a fuller account of "the rest of the story,” click HERE. It seems Squanto, like so many real-life "heroes,” may have been a mixed bag of good traits and bad ones.]

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Glenn Packiam
Glenn Packiam is one of the associate senior pastors at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the lead pastor of New Life Downtown, a congregation of New Life Church. Glenn earned a Doctorate in Theology and Ministry from Durham University in the UK. He also holds BA in Theological/Historical Studies and Masters in Management from Oral Roberts University, and a Graduate Certificate in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. Glenn and his wife, Holly, have four children.