Squanto is a high-born Indian warrior from a tribe on the Atlantic coast of North America which devotes its life to hunting and rivalry with a neighboring tribe. Everything changes forever after a ship arrives from England, prospecting the region's commercial potential for the rich Sir George, who uses all his wealth and influence only for ever greater profit. When it returns, several Indians find themselves captives on board, including Squanto. The arrogant Christians consider themselves utterly superior to the 'heathen savages' and treat them as brutally as they do beasts. Squanto fights a bear in a circus, not understanding how men can be so cruel to that creature either, and manages a spectacular escape, but where must he go? He finds shelter and help in a rural monastery, where it takes his protector some effort to prevent the others considering the unknown as diabolical. In time sir George's men come looking for him most brutally, but he escapes again, now determined to find a ... Written by
Film mangles history, but Squanto's paragon still inspires us
As a history buff and a published writer in that subject, I was distressed to see how the film's storyline warped the real history of Squanto, especially in how he was treated by his English hosts, which was mostly cordial by all accounts, during the many years he actually lived on the other side of the Pond (and should have gotten Frequent Sailor Miles for all those trips he made back and forth over the Atlantic.) But it does show he learned the lessons of the Christian virtues taught him by the Franciscan monks and others who befriended him during that time, and more important, he passed them on to his Indian brethren so that they might live in harmony with their new neighbors. Like two other films that were released about this same time, DANCES WITH WOLVES and LAST OF THE MOHICANS, it shows that people of differing cultures can work together to accomplish great things, even in the face of great hostility between the two sides by those not so enlightened. At the screening of this film last night at the Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church, we watched this tale unfold and found it to be a great way of remembering why we celebrate Thanksgiving in the U.S.A. History teaches us (or it did when most of us in the church's audience went to school)that Squanto played a huge part in ensuring the Pilgrims could grow enough food and hunt and fish well enough to survive the coming winter, a task he did so well that it enabled the Pilgrims and their Indian neighbors to partake in a feast that continues as a tradition in America almost four centuries later. But this film carries a message beyond our traditional rationale for having a uniquely American holiday set apart to give thanks to God for providing bounty and blessings to all Americans in this land.That mostly overlooked message that many of us don't see today but that Squanto recognized is that peace and brotherhood and charity must be practiced if we are to survive and prosper in this world.
In a year (1994) when the Disney Studios released so many entertaining films (IRON WILL, THE LION KING, THE JUNGLE BOOK, THE SANTA CLAUSE, ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD, D2-MIGHTY DUCKS,) this stood out as a real gem of a movie that still entertains and inspires us today. I think Walt Disney would have been proud to have put his name on such a fine production by the motion picture company bearing his name. Thanks be to Walt, thanks be to Squanto and thanks, most of all, to God. Happy Thanksgiving. Dale Roloff
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