Survival lessons from Squanto and the Pilgrims

Peter Lloyd / Unsplash

As we near the end of November, the excitement and preparations for Thanksgiving are kicking into high gear. Who doesn't enjoy sitting down around the table with loved ones and indulging in turkey, stuffing, gravy and green beans? It's the perfect time to express gratitude, engage in culinary traditions, and share new memories with family and friends alike.

However, beyond gratitude and familial bonding, there's a lot more to be learned from the history behind Thanksgiving. You may be thinking, "I already learned about the Pilgrims, Mayflower and Native Americans in elementary school—why should I revisit this particular lesson in history?"

If you understand the importance of preparedness, the story of Thanksgiving is a great example of what to do (and not do) when it comes to survival lessons in tough conditions. Consider for a moment that most of the Pilgrims, the first settlers of Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts, were city folk. They showed up in the New World extremely unprepared for what was to come. In fact, due to a brutal winter, disease and a rough crossing of the Atlantic, only half of the Mayflower's102 passengers survived the first winter in the United States.

Squanto, a member of a local indigenous Wampanoag confederation, had previously been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before escaping to London and returning to his homeland on an exploratory expedition. Because he spoke English, he was a key ally for the Pilgrims. If it hadn't been for Native Americans like Squanto imparting lessons for survival in their new land, the Plymouth Rock Pilgrims wouldn't have survived and flourished in the way they did.

As Dick Ropp, the chairman of the French Creek Living History Association puts it, "It's well documented that the first Europeans who settled in the New World could not have made it through the first few winters without the assistance and knowledge of American Indians."

Let's take it back to 1621 and cover four key survival lessons that the Native Americans taught the Pilgrims regarding how to prepare for the winter season, colder temperatures, etc.

#1 Exchanging Resources

An "every man for himself" mindset didn't do Pilgrims much good in those days. Arriving unprepared for the cold winter meant they lacked the resources and knowledge for survival—and the consequences were fatal.

One of the things that Squanto did for the Pilgrims was arrange meetings and broker alliances with surrounding Native American tribes. This allowed the Pilgrims to engage in a trading system with the local tribes, exchanging European-manufactured goods such as guns, metal cooking utensils, and cloth for food and other necessary supplies.

This barter and trade system was beneficial for both sides. The Wampanoags were looking to build up their strength against rival tribes such as the Pequot and Narragansett—and needed the weapons and resources to do so.

#2 Using Multipurpose Items

In addition to sharing resources, the Pilgrims learned to be resourceful and find various uses for the same item. As the story goes, the Pilgrims were originally going to take two boats over to America. But, due to an issue with one of the boats, they had to quickly retrofit the Mayflower for passengers. Unfortunately, this meant they were forced to leave a lot of their cargo and supplies behind.

Because they were limited on supplies upon arrival to America, they were forced to be inventive. For example, they used a printing press to undergird a beam in the Mayflower, when rough seas caused it to crack. And because there weren't initially enough homes built on the land to house everyone through the winter, some families lived aboard the Mayflower while preparing additional houses on the shore.

Their houses on the shore were constructed from whatever resources could be found—for example, the wood from trees in surrounding forests.

#3 Planting Life-Sustaining Crops

Many Pilgrims perished during their first winter due to poor nutrition and lack of knowledge of how to grow their own food. The local Native American tribes that had lived in the area for over 10,000 years, such as the Wampanoag and Pokanokets, understood the native crops and knew how to cultivate and harvest them. Once a connection was established with these tribes, the Pilgrims were able to gain important survival lessons when it came to growing crops in the local area. Life-sustaining crops such as corn were commonplace and kept people healthy and strong during the winter months. It's no wonder cornbread has become a staple Thanksgiving feast food!

Pilgrim house-gardens likely included crops such as onions, leeks, sorrel, yarrow, lettuce, carrots, radishes, currants, liverwort, watercress and others. Additionally, the Pilgrims learned how to extract sap from maple trees and gather ground nuts, acorns, walnuts, chestnuts, squashes, beans, fruits and berries.

The Native Americans also taught them what not to eat—such as which plants were poisonous and couldn't be ingested. The Pilgrims probably wished they had some Wild Edible Playing Cards available back then!

Understanding how to plant and harvest your own life-sustaining crops, whether they be in your garden, on your roof (maybe an Urban Garden), or in your house, is a worthwhile survival lesson to begin practicing now.

#4 Hunting and Fishing

Aside from growing produce, the Pilgrims also learned where and how to fish and hunt from the local Native American tribes. Understanding trapping techniques and animal movement patterns is key in knowing how to hunt successfully—and the Native Americans had been doing this for centuries.

According to an account recorded by Pilgrim Edward Winslow, people hunted deer, fowl and wild turkeys—which they stored and served at the first Thanksgiving feast.

They also learned to catch fish such as cod and bass and other seafood such as clams, mussels, lobster and eel. These foods provided important nutrients and nourishment needed to get the Pilgrims through the harsh winter conditions.

Thanks to the lessons in survival from the Native Americans, the Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock went on to defeat the odds and establish the second successful English colony in the Americas.

Even though you may not be a pilgrim setting out to create a colony, there are certain situations in life that call for the application of these key survival lessons. Taking the time to learn them now will mean the difference between struggling and coasting through difficult times.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This article originally appeared on MyPatriotSupply.com.

On Monday's episode of "The Glenn Beck Radio Program," Glenn opened up about the tragic death of his brother-in-law, Vincent Colonna Jr., who passed away unexpectedly on April 5. He also shared some of the important thoughts and insights he's learned through the grieving process.

"Last Monday, I was sitting in this chair ... the two-minute warning comes and Stu said to me, 'You ready for the show?'' ... And that's when my wife [Tania] came to the door of the studio here at our house and said, 'I...' and she held the phone up. And then she collapsed on the floor in tears," Glenn began. "Tania's brother had passed. To say this was a shock, is an understatement."

Glenn described his brother-in-law as having "a servant's spirit."

"He was always the guy who lit up the room. He was always the guy helping others. He would never stop, because he was always helping others," Glenn said of Vincent. "He was on the school board. He was a little league coach. He was the soccer coach. He helped build the church. He took care of the lawn of the church. He was constantly doing things, raising money for charity, working over here, helping to organize this. But he was never the guy in the spotlight. He was just the guy doing it, and you had no idea how much he had done because he never talked about it.

"We also didn't know how much mental anguish he was in because he never talked about it. And last Monday morning, after spending Easter with the family ... he killed himself. This is now the third family member of mine that has gone through this. And I keep seeing it play out over and over and over again, in exactly the same way."

Glenn described his thoughts as he, Tania, and her family struggled to come to grips with the devastating loss.

"I learned some really important things as I was watching this wake. I'm seeing these people from all walks of life ... the people that were there, were there because [Vince] made a difference in their life. He was a true servant. As I'm watching this, all that kept going through my mind was, 'by their fruits, ye shall know them.' The fruits of his labor were on display. He was a servant all the time. All the time ... he found a way to love everybody.

"There are two great commandments: Love God with all your heart and mind and soul. And love your neighbor. So those two great commandments boil down to: Love truth. Because that's what God is," Glenn said.

"Love thy neighbor. That's where joy comes from. The opposite of joy is despair, and that is the complete absence of hope ... and how do you find joy? You find joy by rooting yourself in the truth. Even if that's a truth you don't want to accept. Accept the truth," he added. "But we have to stop saying that there's nothing we can do. What are we going to do? Well, here's the first thing: stop living a lie."

Watch the video clip below to hear more from Glenn:


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After imprisoning a pastor for refusing to follow COVID-19 restrictions, Canadian officials barricaded his church. And when some church members retaliated by tearing down part of the fence, Canadian Mounties arrived in riot gear.

Rebel News Founder Ezra Levant joined Glenn Beck on the radio program to give his insight on the crazy situation. He described the new, armed police presence surrounding GraceLife Church in Edmonton, Alberta, and how it not only encouraged hundreds of protesters to stand with the church in support but forced congregation members underground to worship as well.

What's happening is eerily similar to what occurs everyday in China, Levant says, and it must stop. Who would have thought this type of tyranny would be so close to home?

Watch the video below to hear Ezra describe the religious persecution taking place in Canada.


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To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

Enough prayers? Why is supposed Catholic Joe Biden suggesting that Congress ought to stop praying for after someone commits acts of gun violence?

On Friday, Stu Burguiere and Pat Gray filled in for Glenn and discussed President Joe Biden's remarks during his speech on gun control. "Enough prayers. Time for some action," Biden said. Stu and Pat were surprised how dismissive Biden appeared to be on the idea of prayer.

Watch the clip to hear more. Can't watch? Download the podcast here.

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Just days after Canadian pastor James Coates was released from prison for refusing to bow to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, several police officers showed up at another church to ensure restrictions were being followed. But Polish pastor Artur Pawlowski of the Cave of Adullam Church in Alberta, Canada, knew his rights, telling the cops not to come back until they had a warrant in hand.

Filling in for Glenn Beck on the radio program this week, Pat Gray and Stu Burguiere played a video of the interaction.

"Please get out. Please get out of this property immediately. Get out!" Pawlowski can be heard yelling at the six officers who entered his church.

"Out! Out! Out! Get out of this property immediately until you come back with a warrant," he continued. "Go out and don't come back. I don't want to talk to you. You Nazis, Gestapo is not allowed here! ... Nazis are not welcome here! Do not come back you Nazi psychopaths. Unbelievable sick, evil people. Intimidating people in a church during the Passover! You Gestapo, Nazi, communist fascists! Don't you dare come back here!"

Watch this clip to see the heated exchange:

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To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.