Byline: Beth Wilson Daily Herald Staff Writer
History professor Ann Keating loves Squanto. Or at least she loves his story.
As Keating tells it, Squanto was abducted by an English sea captain in 1615 and sold as a slave in Spain. Then Squanto escaped to England, worked as a navigator for English explorations and returns to New England in 1619.
Although most of his family and fellow tribesmen were dead or dying from diseases, he acted as an interpreter (he spoke English) between the colonists and Native Americans and taught the Pilgrims how to farm the land, before they sat down for the first Thanksgiving feast.
"It's an amazing story," said Keating, who teaches North and South American history at North Central College in Naperville. "He's a slave who returns to help people. He's the figure I most associate with Thanksgiving."
Squanto is one of the most notable figures, along with William Bradford, who wasn't as philanthropic as he appeared, Keating said. He later relished setting fire to Native American villages, she said.
Well, at least on this first Thanksgiving, circa October 1621, everyone was friendly. The Pilgrims were "thanking" the Native Americans, after all.
In later years, droughts hit, the colonists battled the British for independence and Thanksgiving Day assumed new and larger meanings, beyond a day to express gratitude for a bountiful harvest.
See how much you know about one of our most popular secular holidays:
1. Thanksgiving Day was one of the most solemn, reflective holidays recognized by the Puritans. True or False.
False. If the Pilgrims let their hair down and partied, it was during Thanksgiving. "This was a break in their regular schedule," Keating said.
Heck, according to "The American Book of Days," edited by Jane M. …