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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Squanto: A Warrior's Tale is a sweeping narrative -- packed with the violence of slavery and conquest -- about the arrival of foreign explorers and settlers on the shores of America when it was still the New World, all told from a well-known Native American's point of view. This fictionalized compression of Squanto's adventurous life depicts his kidnapping, enslavement, his stay in England, his learning English, and his efforts to make peace back in his homeland, which would one day be known as Massachusetts. His story led to the first Thanksgiving feast with Pilgrims in 1621. Younger kids may be upset when Squanto is mistreated and chased by people who call him subhuman, but the subject of the gifts and know-how of American native people and their mistreatment at the hands of settlers and explorers may be a gateway to more learning on the subject.
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What's the story?
In SQUANTO: A WARRIOR'S TALE, shortly after his wedding, young Squanto (Adam Beach) is kidnapped by English sailors who come to Massachusetts in the 1600s to trade. In England, he's treated by the owner of the shipping company (Michael Gambon) as property and forced to wrestle a bear in front of a crowd. He escapes and is hidden by kindly monks who teach him to speak English and to trust that not all English people are violent and treacherous. After hitching a ship ride home, he discovers that his village has been wiped out by a disease brought by the English. Later, when Puritans arrive from England seeking religious freedom, he makes peace and teaches them agriculture and hunting so they can survive the harsh environment. The movie ends after a celebration of the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621.
Is it any good?
This film compresses and alters some of the details of the famed Native American who played a starring role in the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621. Historians disagree on the exact events of Squanto's life, on how many times he was enslaved and by whom and where he was taken. But most agree that he learned English and eventually became a peacemaker between the Native Americans and the Pilgrims when they arrived at Massachusetts in 1621. There are many moments of extreme tension in Squanto: A Warrior's Tale, as when Squanto escapes his captors, and violence, as when some Englishmen and natives are killed, but the movie's greater message is of peace. Beach makes a compelling Squanto, a man who speaks softly and thinks deeply, who doesn’t achieve his goals with brawn or force but through logic, strategy, intelligence, and righteousness.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the unfairness of the settlers' treatment of Native Americans and how it's portrayed in Squanto: A Warrior's Tale. What are some of the reasons the English believed they were superior to the people they found living in The New World? Do you think the Native Americans proved them wrong? What are some examples?
The Native American view was that people belonged to the land, not the other way around, as English and other settlers believed. How do you think these differing points of view might relate to the way we take care of the environment in the modern day?
It appears that the men with the deadlier weapons -- guns -- were able to win the land. How big a role do you think guns play in modern situations of conflict? Do you think people would find more peaceful ways of settling conflicts if guns were not a factor?
- In theaters: October 24, 1994
- On DVD or streaming: September 7, 2004
- Cast: Adam Beach, Michael Gambon, Eric Schweig
- Director: Xavier Koller
- Studio: Walt Disney Home Video
- Genre: Drama
- Character strengths: Courage, Integrity, Perseverance
- Run time: 102 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: for Mild Violence, Adult Content.
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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