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Squanto: A Warrior's Tale

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
Squanto: A Warrior's Tale Movie Poster Image
Story based on famous Native American has peril, violence.
  • PG
  • 1994
  • 102 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Hatred only leads to more hatred. Don't judge people by their looks. Just because you have bigger and stronger weapons doesn't mean that you're right or good. Native Americans were unfairly pushed off their lands. Never give up.
 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Squanto is brave, loyal, smart, and resourceful as he battles prejudiced Englishmen who kidnap and enslave him. Risking his own safety, he also tries to save his enslaved friend. Many English people tell him he's less than human despite the fact that he outsmarts them over and over and displays his goodness and decency repeatedly. One Englishman cautions that the Native Americans should be treated with respect to make trade easier, but his boss says the English are stronger so there's no need to be nice. Monks take Squanto in and treat him with kindness and respect. A Native American tells Squanto what he's learned from the English: how to lie.
 

Violence

Native Americans are tricked into helping English traders, then kidnapped and enslaved. Men punch and wrestle each other as the Native Americans struggle to escape. Arrows and bullets are exchanged. Squanto must wrestle with a bear and is clawed on the shoulder. A little blood is seen. Squanto learns that his entire village had been wiped out by disease brought by the English. After having been kidnapped, enslaved, and otherwise tricked by the English, when he returns with them to his village, the Native American and his tribe sneak out to the docked British ship in the middle of the night, kill those on board, and burn the ship. Squanto, hands bound behind him, bites an Englishman. Armed Englishmen searching for Squanto attack a monastery and threaten the monks. A man is shot through the arm with an arrow. Another is killed by an arrow. No blood is seen.

Sex

Squanto advises the monks who have saved him that their tribe will die out without women. 

Language

Englishmen call Squanto a "beast," "livestock," and "less than human."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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?

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