Guns, germs and steel.
Native Americans got it worse than anybody in this country's history, and despite being the mascot for how great everyone was getting along back then, Squanto was one of the best examples. Kidnapped by an Englishman, purchased by Spanish friars and somehow able to talk his way back home, the guy had every right to hate England. When his buddy Samoset introduced him to the Pilgrims at the end of a mean winter, Squanto could have left them to suffer from freezing, starvation and Englishness.
Instead of generalizing, he taught them farming and hunting methods, while negotiating a little farm-aid from the Wampanoag tribe. If there was anything to be thankful for in 1621, it was Tisquantum. He corrected the Pilgrims' method of working the earth at high-speed to the sound of "Yakety-Sax."
But he didn't just save the Pilgrims from nature; he saved them from getting indiscriminately whacked, and paid for it with his life.
After five years of eating terrible pub food, Tisquantum made it back to his village only to discover that everyone had died of plague. All his family, all his friends, Shakespeare* ... dead in the five years he'd been in England. So on the bright side: he was now chief of his tribe. On the much darker side:
Brought to you by smallpox!
"Tisquantum" was a Patuxet name meaning "Forever Alone."
*But that was unrelated.**
**Or WAS it ...?
One morning, he experienced that joy every man feels at least once in his life: the day you learn your oppressors are living in the boneyard of your ancient culture. And even though the best science of the day knew contagion was either caused by sin or a witch's curse, nobody picked up on the fact that new diseases were popping up wherever white folks went.
Squanto had hired himself out as a guide and translator, only to see his clients slaughtered by the Wampanoag. If the Pilgrims had made a wrong move, well ... it's not that the tribe was hellbent on killing Europeans (another English speaker, Samoset, treated them pretty well); they just weren't inexperienced in the craft.
His negotiating peace between the two groups, and the half-century of good relations that followed, was amazing when you consider neither side fully trusted him at first. In fact, at one point the Wampanoag chief Massasoit was convinced Tisquantum had betrayed him, and demanded the English hand him over.
Making things worse, in the spring of 1622, Myles Standish decided to just up and stab himself some natives. Market research showed the move tested poorly among a sample poll of local tribes. And still the double-outsider Squanto spent the rest of his life knotting the ties that bound.
And what was his reward? Dead in a year of smallpox. Some historians think that was odd after he'd survived several years in London, and suggest that the Wampanoag poisoned him, but smallpox is kind of hard to mistake. Either way, he was a classier guy than either side he helped.
Historians agree "Pilgrims vs. Turkeys" was the dumbest season of Survivor yet.