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 Wednesday's TV show, Glenn Beck sat down with radio show host, author, political commentator, and film critic, Michael Medved.

Michael had an interesting prediction for the 2020 election outcome: a brokered convention by the DNC will usher in former First Lady Michelle Obama to run against President Donald Trump.

Watch the video below to hear why he's making this surprising forecast:

Use code BECK to save $10 on one year of BlazeTV.

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On Thursday's "Glenn Beck Radio Program," BlazeTV's White House correspondent Jon Miller described the current situation in Virginia after Gov. Ralph Northam (D) declared a state of emergency and banned people carrying guns at Capitol Square just days before a pro-Second-Amendment rally scheduled on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Jon told Glenn that Gov. Northam and the Virginia Legislature are "trying to deprive the people of their Second Amendment rights" but the citizens of Virginia are "rising up" to defend their constitutional rights.

"I do think this is the flashpoint," Jon said. "They [Virginia lawmakers] are saying, 'You cannot exercise your rights ... and instead of trying to de-escalate the situation, we are putting pressure. We're trying to escalate it and we're trying to enrage the citizenry even more'."

Glenn noted how Gov. Northam initially blamed the threat of violence from Antifa for his decision to ban weapons but quickly changed his narrative to blame "white supremacists" to vilify the people who are standing up for the Second Amendment and the Constitution.

"What he's doing is, he's making all all the law-abiding citizens of Virginia into white supremacists," Glenn said.

"Sadly, that's exactly right," Jon replied. "And I think he knows exactly what he's doing."

Watch the video to catch more of the conversation below:

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Ryan: Trump Louisiana Finale

Photo by Jim Dale

Part One. Part Two. Part Three.

At the end of Trump rallies, I would throw on my Carhartt jacket, sneak out of the press area, then blend in with everyone as they left, filing out through swinging doors.

Often, someone held the door open for me. Just 30 minutes earlier, the same person had most likely had most likely hissed at me for being a journalist. And now they were Sunday smiles and "Oh, yes, thank you, sir" like some redneck concierge.

People flooded out of the arena with the stupidity of a fire drill mishap, desperate to survive.

The air smacked you as soon as you crossed the threshold, back into Louisiana. And the lawn was a wasteland of camping chairs and coolers and shopping bags and to-go containers and soda cans and articles of clothing and even a few tents.

In Monroe, in the dark, the Trump supporters bobbled over mounds of waste like elephants trying to tiptoe. And the trash was as neutral to them as concrete or grass. They plodded over it because it, an object, had somehow gotten in their way.

It did not matter that they were responsible for this wreckage.Out in the sharp-edged moonlight, rally-goers hooted and yapped and boogied and danced, and the bbq food truck was all smoke and paper plates.

They were even more pumped than they had been before the rally, like 6,000 eight year olds who'd been chugging Mountain Dew for hours. Which made Donald Trump the father, the trooper, God of the Underworld, Mr. Elite, Sheriff on high horse, the AR-15 sticker of the family.

Ritualistic mayhem, all at once. And, there in Louisiana, Trump's supporters had gotten a taste of it. They were all so happy. It bordered on rage.

Still, I could not imagine their view of America. Worse, after a day of strange hostilities, I did not care.

My highest priority, my job as a reporter, was to care. To understand them and the world that they inhabit. But I did not give a damn and I never wanted to come back.

Worst of all, I would be back. In less than a week.

Was this how dogs felt on the 4th of July? Hunched in a corner while everyone else gets drunk and launches wailing light into the sky? configurations of blue and red and white.

It was 10:00 p.m. and we'd been traveling since 11:00 a.m., and we still had 5 hours to go and all I wanted was a home, my home, any home, just not here, in the cold sweat of this nowhere. Grey-mangled sky. No evidence of planes or satellites or any proof of modern-day. Just century-old bridges that trains shuffled over one clack at a time.

And casinos, all spangles and neon like the 1960s in Las Vegas. Kitchy and dumb, too tacky for lighthearted gambling. And only in the nicer cities, like Shreveport, which is not nice at all.

And swamp. Black water that rarely shimmered. Inhabited by gadflies and leeches and not one single fish that was pretty.

Full of alligators, and other killing types. The storks gnawing on frogs, the vultures never hungry. The coyotes with nobody to stop them and so much land to themselves. The roaches in the wild, like tiny wildebeests.

Then, the occasional deer carcass on the side of the road, eyes splayed as if distracted, tongue out, relaxed but empty. The diseased willows like skeletons in hairnets. The owls that never quit staring. A million facets of wilderness that would outlive us all.

Because Nature has poise. It thrives and is original.

Because silence is impossible. Even in an anechoic chamber, perfectly soundproofed, you can hear your own heartbeat, steady as a drum. A never-ending war.

I put "Headache" by Grouper on repeat as we glided west. We were deadlocked to asphalt, rubber over tarface.

And I thought about lines from a Rita Dove poem titled "I have been a stranger in a strange land"

He was off cataloging the universe, probably,
pretending he could organize
what was clearly someone else's chaos.

Wasn't that exactly what I was doing? Looking for an impossible answer, examining every single accident, eager for meaning? telling myself, "If it happens and matters the next year, in America, I want to be there, or to know what it means. I owe it to whoever cares to listen."

Humans are collectors and I had gone overboard.

Because maybe this wasn't even my home. These landmarks, what did they mean? Was I obvious here? When I smiled, did I trick them into believing that I felt some vague sense of approval? Or did my expressions betray me?

Out in all that garbage-streaked emptiness — despite the occasional burst of passing halogen — I couldn't tell if everything we encountered was haunted or just old, derelict, broken, useless. One never-ending landfill.

Around those parts, they'd made everything into junk. Homes. Roads. Glass. Nature. Life itself, they made into junk.

I cringed as we passed yet another deer carcass mounded on the side of the road.

As written in Job 35:11,

Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds in the sky?

Nobody. Look at nature and you feel something powerful. Look at an animal, in all of its untamable majesty, and you capture a deep love, all swept up in the power of creation. But, here, all I saw were poor creatures who people had slammed into and kept driving. Driving to where? For what reason? What exactly was so important that they left a trail of dead animals behind them?

So I crossed myself dolorously and said an "Our Father" and recited a stanza from Charles Bukowski's "The Laughing Heart"

you can't beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.

Out here, nothing but darkness. Needing some light, by God. Give me something better than a Moon that hides like an underfed coward.

Jade told me about some of the more traumatic things she'd seen while working at the State Fair.

"Bro, they pull roaches out of the iced lemonade jugs and act like nothing happened."

"All right but what about the corn dogs?"

"You do not want to know, little bro."

She looked around in the quiet. "Back in the day, the Louisiana Congress refused to raise the drinking age from 18 to 21," she said. "They didn't want to lose all that drunk gambler money. So the federal government cut off funding to highways."

We glided through moon-pale landscape for an hour before I realized what she had meant. That there weren't any light poles or billboards along the road. Nothing to guide us or distract us. Just us, alone. And it felt like outer space had collapsed, swallowed us like jellybeans.

Like two teenagers playing a prank on the universe.

In the cozy Subaru Crosstrek, in the old wild night, brimming with the uncertainty of life and the nonchalance of failure, we paraded ourselves back to Dallas. Alive in the river silence that follows us everywhere.

New installments come Mondays and Thursdays. Next, the Iowa caucuses. Check out my Twitter. Email me at kryan@blazemedia.com

The Iowa primary is just around the corner, and concerns of election interference from the last presidential election still loom. Back in 2016, The Associated Press found that a majority of U.S. elections systems still use Windows 7 as an operating system, making them highly susceptible to bugs and errors. And last year, a Mississippi voter tried multiple times to vote for the candidate of his choice, but the system continuously switched his vote to the other candidate. It's pretty clear: America's voting systems desperately need an update.

That's where blockchain voting comes in.

Blockchain voting is a record-keeping system that's 100% verifiable and nearly impossible to hack. Blockchain, the newest innovation in cybersecurity, is set to grow into a $20 billion industry by 2025. Its genius is in its decentralized nature, distributing information throughout a network of computers, requiring would-be hackers to infiltrate a much larger system. Infiltrating multiple access points spread across many computers requires a significant amount of computing power, which often costs more than hackers expect to get in return.

Blockchain voting wouldn't allow for many weak spots. For instance, Voatz, arguably the leading mobile voting platform, requires a person to take a picture of their government-issued ID and a picture of themselves before voting (a feature, of course, not present in vote-by-mail, where the only form of identity verification is a handwritten signature, which is easily forgeable). Voters select their choices and hit submit. They then receive an immediate receipt of their choices via email, another security feature not present in vote-by-mail, or even in-person voting. And because the system operates on blockchain technology, it's nearly impossible to tamper with.

Votes are then tabulated, and the election results are published, providing a paper trail, which is a top priority for elections security experts.

The benefits of blockchain voting can't be dismissed. Folks can cast their vote from the comfort of their homes, offices, etc., vastly increasing the number of people who can participate in the electoral process. Two to three-hour lines at polling places, which often deter voters, would become significantly diminished.

Even outside of the voting increase, the upsides are manifold. Thanks to the photo identification requirements, voter fraud—whether real or merely suspected—would be eliminated. The environment would win, too, since we'd no longer be wasting paper on mail-in ballots. Moreover, the financial burden on election offices would be alleviated, because there's decreased staff time spent on the election, saving the taxpayer money.

From Oregon to West Virginia, elections offices have already implemented blockchain voting, and the results have been highly positive. For example, the city of Denver utilized mobile voting for overseas voters in their 2019 municipal elections. The system was secure and free of technical errors, and participants reported that it was very user-friendly. Utah County used the same system for their 2019 primary and general elections. An independent audit revealed that every vote that was cast on the app was counted and counted correctly. These successful test cases are laying the groundwork for even larger expansions of the program in 2020.

With this vital switch, our elections become significantly more secure, accurate, and efficient. But right now, our election infrastructure is a sitting duck for manipulation. Our current lack of election integrity undermines the results of both local and national elections, fans the flames of partisanship, and zaps voter confidence in the democratic system. While there's never a silver bullet or quick fix to those kinds of things, blockchain voting would push us much closer to a solution than anything else.

Chris Harelson is the Executive Director at Prosperity Council and a Young Voices contributor.