Education is a funny thing. I learned this morning that most, if not all, of my students didn't know much, if anything, about the Oklahoma City bombing.
It's hard to expect them to know much more about Tisquantum, the member of the Patuxet (I could be a dope - but that probably is like "Pawtucket," right?) tribe who is known to children as "Squanto." Tisquantum is the "friendly Indian" of the Pilgrim story - he plays an important role in Thanksgiving and may even stand on the table next to the turkey centerpiece or the Pilgrim man and maid. This is a "typical" Squanto/Tisquantum story. Here is another one. Both of these emphasize that "Squanto" became greedy or corrupted by his exposure to the Pilgrims, trying to take power by threatening the other native peoples by telling them that if they didn't do what he said, he'd tell the Europeans to unleash "the plague."
It probably wasn't much of a stretch for Tisquantum to warn effectively about "plague." Kidnapped and sold into slavery not once, but twice, Tisquantum returned after a five-year absence to find his village destroyed, and everyone dead of disease. Patuxet was, in fact, the location chosen by the Pilgrims to establish Plymouth. While in captivity, Tisquantum had learned English, and also spent time in Spain and other European locations. His famous lesson for the Pilgrims of how to plant corn -- putting a piece of fish in with the grain to fertilize it -- doesn't seem to have been a Native American custom. It seems to have been something he picked up in Spain or elsewhere in Europe. Tisquantum's name was very unlikely to have been his birth name. He seems to have given himself the name, which meant "extreme rage" or "wrath," related to manitou or the spiritual force of his people.
Tisquantum was "Legend" -- he was the last of his people and he remained living among the people who had literally built their homes atop the graves of his village. Kidnapped twice and taken across the Atlantic, held captive in a British nobleman's home and treated like a talking parrot, Tisquantum's story may be one of the most dramatic ever told. Or never told. Because kids still get taught about "Squanto" the friendly Indian. They never even hear of how many hundreds of thousands -- millions -- of native people died before the Mayflower landed, of disease that swept inland and destroyed entire villages and peoples. The people Europeans later met were small groups of hardened and hardy survivors. All that history was swept away, forgotten, or twisted.