Many human being know the Thanksgiving legend the Squanto (Tisquantum), the aboriginal American who taught Pilgrims exactly how to plant crops and also survive in brand-new England. But not countless know the Squanto’s legend is a fish story—in much more ways than one.

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Scientist and author john Waldman is the latest to take it a depths look into this part of the Thanksgiving story. His new book, Running Silver, has actually a fascinating thing on how necessary river-running fish to be for many American Indians. Waldman likewise reminds united state how far from the facts our Thanksgiving legend that Squanto has actually drifted, ending up being what the calls a “highly mythologized account.”

The actual historic record tells quite another story. Squanto didn’t just happen to take it a liking to the pilgrims of Plymouth. Waldman says Tisquantum to be a an excellent English speaker and teacher “because he had actually been kidnapped from his village.”

An Englishman had actually attempted to sell Tisquantum right into slavery in Spain wherein he to be taken in through Spanish Friars, convert to Christianity, and also later took trip to London. Tisquantum eventually returned to phibìc America only to find, in horror, that:

“From southern Maine to Narragansett just the coast was empty—utterly void. What had once been a heat of busy neighborhoods was now a massive of tumbledown homes…scattered among the houses and also fields to be skeletons bleached by the sun. Squanto’s aboriginal Patuxet had been hit v special force. In ~ Massachusetts Bay, conflict and foreign disease caused the aboriginal American population to plummet from approximately 37,500 come 5,300.”

Tisquantum lived among the pilgrims in Plymouth where he acted as a kind of counselor/diplomat in between the colonists and Native Americans.

So the Thanksgiving legend that Squanto and the pilgrims is a “fish tale” in the feeling that, like many fish stories, that is an exaggerated account. Yet it turns out the the much more historically accurate version is likewise a story about fish.

Waldman tells us Tisquantum did much more than teach colonists how to tree seeds with a little fish (probably menhaden) as fertilizer, he likewise taught them just how to capture eels.

From over there Waldman go us with a repertoire of instances of American ind fishing for and also making usage of eels, shad, flow herring, salmon, sturgeon, and also more.

Part that the story is called in historical accounts from early on colonists, component in the archeological evidence, such as a rock weir still visible on the Passaic flow in Patterson, NJ. Waldman tells exactly how subway workers digging in ~ Boston’s Boylston Street in 1913 uncovered the remains of a primitive weir, “about 65,000 comb interwoven through brush occur over 2 acres…the stakes comprised numerous small weirs built over as many as 15 centuries.”

Many fishes to be so essential to these societies that they became sacred, Waldman writes. Eels to be revered by the Algonquin and no component of the pet was wasted. The Lenape world named in march the “Month that the Shad,” in respect of the spring runs. American Indians carved dozens the petroglyphs the shad follow me the Susquehanna River.

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Alas, countless of those carvings now lie at the bottom of a lake where, Waldman writes, “Any magic they once might have functioned has been defeated by the giant, shad-migration-crippling Conowingo Dam.”

Waldman takes us from this deep history through colonial expansion, the industrial transformation and the climb of hydro power, right up come the existing efforts to gain back the rivers and also the fish the once migrated in them. Running Silver is a good read because that anyone through an attention in the background and scientific research of this fish and our relationships to them. The is likewise an exercise in belief that we could one day watch our rivers “run silver” with good migration runs.