Thoughts on Plymouth, Squanto, and Thanksgiving

Overview: Neddal Ayad is a writer and photographer, based in Newfoundland, Canada. My family and I enjoyed meeting Neddal over Columbus Day weekend, in Plymouth, MA, where he was researching Squanto, as part of the Cupids 400 project. Neddal’s mother, Margaret Ayad of Baccalieu Consulting, is a friend of mine from Twitter. She coordinated my family’s meeting with her son, after I expressed a common appreciation for history and education, which she brings together so wonderfully in her online resource, Squantum.  

Peg’s Note: The following guest post, by Neddal Ayad, is part of an ongoing series here, which celebrates stories of those who live with abundance. The connection of Squanto, the Pilgrims, and the first Thanksgiving to this “Live with Abundance” series, may at first seem not so direct, as the connection to previous guest posts in this series.

The more I reflect, though, the more I realize there is no better metaphor for living abundantly, than the hospitality the Native Americans showed toward the Pilgrims, the gratitude the Pilgrims expressed for their blessings, and the resilience of both Native Americans and Pilgrims alike, given what the author below aptly notes, as their respective isolation and dislocation.

In the post below, Ayad portrays Squanto, who reportedly taught the Pilgrims how to fish in the New World, as a moving and fascinating protagonist, who even today, captures the essence of endurance, and helps us move across cultures.

Here are Neddal’s thoughts and pictures on Plymouth, Squanto, and Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Holiday

Most people in English-speaking parts of North America have at least a passing familiarity with the story of the First American Thanksgiving.  Growing up in Newfoundland off the east coast of Canada, I picked up the story in bits and pieces from school, from movies and television, from trips to the US. In fact, I think we may have covered American Thanksgiving in more detail, than the Canadian version.

And by detail, I mean that growing up, I knew that Thanksgiving (American style) involved parades, football, and turkey.  Oh yeah, and there was something about Pilgrims and a friendly Indian named Squanto, and corn, and turkey……. and that to Americans, it was a really big deal.

Canadian Thanksgiving, on the other hand, seemed like a non-event.  There was turkey and a day off from school, but it seemed very much like a random holiday.  I hate to admit it, but I still don’t know the provenance of the Canadian holiday.  Ask me about Guy Fawkes’ Day (November  5th), and I can lay out an essay. Ask me why Thanksgiving in Canada is the 2nd Monday in October, and you’ll get a blank look and an apology.


Tie Between Plymouth and Cupers Cove (Cupids)

Where is all this going?  This year, around Canadian Thanksgiving, I was in Plymouth, Massachusetts researching Squanto (aka Squantum, Tisquantum, Tasquantum) – a major player in Thanksgiving, US edition.  I was there because prior to his encounter with the Pilgrims, Squanto spent time in the English colony of Cupids (Cupers Cove), located in the south-eastern portion of Newfoundland.  During 1617 -1618 when he lived in Cupids, by some accounts, he learned how to use fish as fertilizer, something he would go on to teach the Pilgrims at Plymouth.

How he came to be in Cupids is long and involved and is covered in detail here: Squantum.  Little is known about what Squanto did in Cupids or even why he was sent there in the first place.  There is some speculation that John Slaney, a merchant with whom he lived in London, may have sent him to the colony as a go-between to help establish trade between the colonists and the Beothuk, who inhabited nearby Trinity Bay.  Regardless, Squanto wanted to return to his own home and his own people.  In 1618, the adventurer Thomas Dermer agreed to take him back to the eastern seaboard of the United States.  (See Squantum.)

Squanto: a Warrior Shaman?

I should mention that much has been made of Squanto’s resilience – he survived slavery, he adapted to living in Spain, England, and Cupers Cove, and eventually to living as a kind of exile amongst the Pilgrims of Plymouth Plantation.  One theory for his endurance is that he may have been a pneise, a warrior shaman who in Massachuset society advised and protected the sachem or chief – something akin to the secret service but with more intense training (see Charles Mann’s 1492 – Amazon Books ).  In fact, the name “Squanto” has religious overtones in Massachuset society; it translates to something close to “the wrath of God.”

All this must have served him well when he first returned to Southern Massachusetts.  In the five or so years from the time he was captured by Thomas Hunt in 1614 and his return with Thomas Dermer in 1619, close to 90% of the natives in the region had died due to an outbreak of what experts believe was viral hepatitis.  Squanto’s entire village was decimated, along with most of the Massachuset Confederation.  Dermer’s account of the voyage sounds like a trip through a nightmare.  They found village after village abandoned, or worse, filled with corpses.  Eventually, they encountered a handful of survivors who brought them Massasoit, the sachem of the Wampanoag Massachuset, which sets the stage for Squanto’s meeting with the Pilgrims.

Isolation and Dislocation

The town of Cupids is about 15 minutes from where I live in Newfoundland.  The plantation site has been excavated extensively by Bill Gilbert, who is chief archaeologist with the Baccalieu Trail Heritage Corporation. ( See Baccalieu Digs Website.) I visited the dig site shortly before travelling to Plymouth, and shortly after returning.  One thought that struck me was that in comparison to Plymouth, Cupids must have seemed quite bleak.  Newfoundland landscape is known for its break starkness, very rocky, mainly coniferous trees, cliffs, and rough seas.  There is a beauty in the starkness that is almost impossible to describe, but to Squanto who grew up with his family and his people in the area which is now Plymouth, with its lush deciduous forests and low coves and beaches, living in Cupids must have been miserable.

While I was in Plymouth, I could not shake a feeling of heaviness; sadness is perhaps a better word.  Plymouth itself is a pretty town, and the area around it is beautiful.  But it was difficult to lose Thomas Dermer’s description of all the abandoned and decimated villages. Plymouth was once Patuxet, which was Squanto’s birthplace and one of the native villages obliterated by disease.  And in travelling around the town, I was thinking about exile and how Squanto may have shared the Pilgrims’ sense of isolation and dislocation in the New World, since they, like him, had left everything they knew behind.  Heavy, as I said.

The photos were taken at the Wampanoag Homesite on the Plymouth Plantation.  The clothing and activities would be similar to those that Squanto knew, growing up in his village of Patuxet.

Related Links

Baccalieu Digs A Website of the Baccalieu Trail Heritage Corporation

Cupids 400  Official Website for the Celebration of Canada’s First English Colony

Indian New England 1524-1674: A Compendium of Eyewitness Accounts of Native American Life (Heritage of New England Series)  Ronald D. Carr, ed. (Description on Amazon)

SquantumA Baccalieu Consulting Website

Thomas C. Mann, 1492.  (Description on Amazon)

William Bradford and Edward Winslow, Mourt’s Relation.  Version from  Google Books.

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Contacting the Author: Content for a Convergent World – Peg Mulligan’s Blog

Please contact the author Neddal Ayad directly, at for any rights to republishing this post. Peg Mulligan’s blog is protected by its own copyright, but I give any appropriate rights back to guest bloggers, for posts they may have authored, but which were hosted at this blog.

Holding Us Together: Stories and Compassion

Note From Peg:
The following guest post, by Marie Ennis O’Connor, breast cancer survivor, and author of the Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer blog, is part of an ongoing series here, which focuses on using social media for good.

Last spring, I first met Marie online through a comment she left on my Mother’s Day weekend post, Links for Social Good, May 2009: Breast Cancer Awareness. I wrote the post as a tribute to my own mother, whom I lost to breast cancer, some twenty-five years ago, this winter.

Marie’s example is both humbling and inspirational, and I’m very honored that she agreed to guest blog, in honor of Oct., National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I especially appreciate Marie’s thoughts on the power of story-telling and compassion, in building and cementing our online communities.

In her own words, Marie Ennis O’Connor offers support for all those who have survived breast cancer, and who are integrating this transformative experience, with the rest of their lives…

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago, I relied on my circle of friends and family for emotional support. However, I often felt like I didn’t want to worry them with my fears and concerns, so the reality was, I kept most of it to myself. I found it easier to unburden myself at the cancer support center which I attended, but I still felt lonely and isolated at times, particularly as a younger woman with breast cancer in a predominately older environment.

Now, with the rise of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter and online discussion groups, the support landscape has changed greatly since I was diagnosed. Women with breast cancer have access to much wider networks to find support and get answers to their questions. We can now share our experiences online with others who understand and can support us – not just in our own localities, but in different states and even countries across the world.

Having successfully completed my treatment for breast cancer and returned to my “real life,” I was not prepared for the tsunami of emotions that hit me at times. I was filled alternately with relief and elation at being given a second chance and with anxiety, fear, and uncertainty in the months and years, after treatment ended. Finishing treatment can be a very unsettling time. You can feel cut adrift and alone – once the hectic round of hospital visits, treatment and check ups are over, what then? Often this is when the real psychological and emotional work starts.

I started a blog, Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer, about my personal journey to make sense of my cancer experience. I also wanted to connect with others struggling with the same questions and concerns as I had in this post treatment stage. Also, I hoped that in telling my story, others on the same path would find some resonance and the knowledge that they are not alone. I found that while there are many blogs, chat forums, and websites available for those newly diagnosed, or going through treatment, there is much less available on what it is like to have gone through the experience and how you integrate it with the rest of your life.

I have been surprised and delighted at how well the blog has been received and how many wonderful women I have connected with through writing it. I find a great sense of community and connectedness through the blog, so much so that I have recently expanded it into an online support community on Facebook.

It is comforting to know that there are others out there who truly understand what we are going through.  While family and friends can provide sympathy, it is really only those who are going through the same experience themselves who can truly understand us.  Then, there is the empathy and support we give each other – when I am feeling down, others lift me up.  And when those others are down, I am there to do the same for them.

One of my favorite quotes, which I have taken as a mission statement for our  community, is from writer, Barry Lopez:

Everything is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion.

Cancer strikes a severe blow at our sense of self and our sense of past, present and future. The apparent randomness of a cancer diagnosis shakes our sense of identity to its very core and nothing will ever feel certain again. I believe that as we tell our stories to each other, we rebuild our wounded selves, learning to integrate our past, present and futures selves. We tell our stories in order to heal; in listening to the stories of how others have walked their path, our own journey of discovery and healing is enriched.

I invite your readers to share their stories and thoughts at the Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer Blog and our group page on Facebook.  You don’t have to have experienced cancer to have something to contribute. While cancer was my personal catalyst for change, it can be any one of a myriad of life experiences, which may be your call to transformation. I write about universal themes of change and transformation and living an authentic life. We all have experienced pain, loss, joys and blessings in our lives in many different forms, and we can use those experiences to help others on their paths of recovery.

I leave you with one final quote from Nobel Prize Winner, Dr Albert Schweitzer, ( I have paraphrased it slightly by using the female pronoun) which beautifully sums up the philosophy behind my social networking:

Whoever among us has learned through personal experience what pain and anxiety really are must help to ensure that those out there who are in … need obtain the same help that once came to her.  She no longer belongs to herself alone; she has become the sister of all who suffer.

Welcome to the sisterhood!

(copyright Marie Ennis O’Connor)


About This Blog: Copyright Information

Contacting the Author: Content for a Convergent World – Peg Mulligan’s Blog

Please contact the author Marie Ennis O’Connor directly, for any rights to republishing this post. Peg Mulligan’s blog is protected by its own copyright, but Marie Ennis O’Connor owns full  rights to this post, authored by her, and currently hosted by Peg Mulligan at this blog.

Live with Abundance: Summer of Social Good

I’m just back from our last weekend get-away for the season, in our family camper. What a difference since our visit from more than a month ago, at the height of summer’s ease. Now, the days are crisp, the colors vivid even as the mood turns somber, and the shadows, of course, continue to lengthen. In this reflective spirit, I’m recalling one of the summer’s most buzzed about social media events—Summer of Social Good, presented by Mashable ~  The Social Media Guide, and Social Media for Social Good. Here, I’m hoping to preserve and carry on the energy and commitment from that worthwhile initiative.

To me, summer’s lasting gift is the sense of renewal that invigorates and sustains our efforts throughout the rest of the year. Though one commentator points out that the $55,000 raised for the four chosen causes may not have matched the expectations of the fundraiser’s ambitious announcement, or possibly the stature of its sponsors, we would do well to remember that the seeds planted from this milestone event are still bearing fruit, and that any awareness or funds raised during these hard times is that much more significant. As presenter Beth Kanter noted at the Social Good Conference in New York, “Small actions online and offline add up to make a difference.”

One Fund—Four Charities

According to Mashable’s announcement, the Summer of Social Good (which ran from June 1st till August 28th 2009) represents “the first large scale online charitable campaign to raise funds strictly online through the power of Social Media and the Internet over an extended period.”

The goal is to use the power of “Social Influence” via Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, blogs and other online media to raise an unprecedented amount for our fund, benefiting The Humane Society, LIVESTRONG, Oxfam America, and WWF. We are very excited to engage and encourage online communities to truly do something remarkable.

The Social Good Conference

The Social Good Conference, a one-day educational event celebrating the finale of the Summer of Social Good charitable campaign, was held at the prestigious 92nd Street Y in New York City, on August 28th. Mashable’s sponsors, Zappos and MailChimp, donated 100% of all ticket sales to the Summer of Social Good non-profit fund.

The conference featured presentations from well known and respected organizations and professionals within the space focused on “Social Media for Social Good,” including keynotes from Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg and All For Good’s Jonathan Greenblatt. Thanks to Livestream, if you couldn’t make it to New York City, you can still view the conference videos.

How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media

According to the conference bio, presenter Beth Kanter, is “the author of Beth’s Blog, one of the longest running and most popular blogs for nonprofits. In 2009, she was named by Fast Company Magazine as one of the most influential women in technology and one of Business Week’s ‘Voices of Innovation for Social Media.’ She is the 2009 Scholar in Residence for Social Media and Nonprofits for the Packard Foundation.”

Kanter describes the Social Good Conference, in her excellent post, Reflections from the Mashable Conference. Especially helpful is Kanter’s summary of keypoints from Randi Zuckerberg’s opening keynote, on how people are using Facebook for online activism, as well as how nonprofits are using it for fundraising.

In her own presentation on how nonprofits can use social media, Kanter describes how she uses her passion for blogging and teaching to raise money online to help children in Cambodia. Specifically, she describes how her blog, a related wiki, the ChipIn Widget, and Twitter help her to fundraise. “Twitter is amazing fertilizer, and our tweets are seeds,” she explains.

Kanter’s inspiring presentation. “Be a generous geek–who uses social media for good” describes that “the 3 Rs remain the same: Relationship-building, Rewards, and Reciprocity.” She also refers to leveraging your social graph, according to the Archimedes Principle, described in New York Times bestsellerTrust Agents (see Kanter’s related post, Using Chris Brogan’s Archimedes Principle To Leverage Nonprofits on Twitter Suggested User List).

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Catch the Wave: 3rd Annual Detroit Hydrocephalus WALK (Part II)

Note From Peg:

The following post, by Jennifer Bechard (available at, is the second of a two-part series on the Detroit Hydrocephalus WALK. Jenn is Co-Chair of the Detroit Hydrocephalus WALK and also suffers from hydrocephalus. She first guest-blogged here in the June post, Social Media for Good: Jennifer Bechard on the Detroit Hydrocephalus WALK. For more information on Jennifer, see her personal story at Gabriel’s Life, or her own newly launched blog, Just Believe.

For more information on hydrocephalus, see the Hydrocephalus Association. (Please also consider voting for the Hydrocephalus Association, at Intel’s Vote for a Cause Competition, one vote per day, on Facebook.) Other resources and fundraising sites are located under “Related Links,” at the conclusion of this post.

In her original guest-post, Jenn helped kick off this Live with Abundance series, which focuses on using social media for good. In that first post, Jennifer’s goal was to raise awareness and funds for hydrocephalus, which significantly impacts the quality of life, of over one million Americans alone. Here, Jennifer continues to describe how 343 people turned out on August 2nd to walk for a cure as well as some of her own goals for continuing to make a difference.

And now, in her own words, the second part of Jennifer’s follow-up on the 3rd Annual Detroit Hydrocephalus WALK…

This past year, I felt I needed to take a more active role in promoting advocacy and sharing my personal experiences, to show others that current treatment is not acceptable. It is necessary that people throughout the United States become more aware of hydrocephalus and the long-term effects this condition has on a person’s life.

Educating Others on Current Treatment: “Hakim” Programmable Shunt by Johnson & Johnson Codman

One aspect people loved the most about the WALK was the Johnson & Johnson Codman table, which Sybrina Evans, a shunt rep for Codman, was hosting. In 1998, Codman introduced the “Hakim” programmable shunt and since that time, it has emerged to become the number one-selling CNS shunt in treatment of adult hydrocephalus, also known as NPH. Sybrina’s table consisted of the shunt tubing, several valves, the magnetic metos changer, a model of the brain, and a model showing the bur hole drilled into the skull, when inserting a shunt. It was a hands-on experience that was extremely educational. People were able to see what was actually keeping many of us alive. But this unreliable tubing also showed people the reason why many of us are not able to live a fully productive and successful life.

Raising Needed Funds and Supporting Each Other

Overall, we brought in almost $24,000.00, with more donations coming in! Throughout the past three years, we have raised more than $48,000! We have formed a lifelong bond with those affected and found a new source of support for the trials hydrocephalus will continue to bring.

Using Social Media to Spread the Word and Build Community

Our WALK seems to be growing bigger each year, and a lot of this has been because of social media. If it weren’t for my Twitter account, I would have never been able to advertise, as I did this past year for our event. The Internet was our source of spreading the word and bringing in donations and corporate sponsors. On Twitter, I found a website called Gabriel’s Life.  The purpose of this website is to serve as a source of information, create hope and inspiration, and help build a community through the shared voices and stories of people living with hydrocephalus. Through this website, I was able to contact people in my community who had hydrocephalus or knew someone with this condition.

The Internet has helped me keep in contact and updated with several of the families I met at the Detroit Hydrocephalus WALK. We have even formed our own Detroit Hydrocephalus WALK fan page on Facebook. This has given the Detroit WALK a way of keeping people updated on current events.

Supporting Others

After talking with many of the children and adults, I decided I needed to do something else to give support to others in Michigan. It has been my dream to start a support group, which people could rely on during their difficult times. Also, it would be a place where we could come together to celebrate our accomplishments. With the help of the Hydrocephalus Association, I am in the process of forming their first hydrocephalus support group in Michigan.

Feeling Renewed Purpose to Help Make a Better Tomorrow

There have been many ups and downs this past year, but I have been able to find myself again. I realized why I was placed on this earth.  My purpose in life is to support, encourage, and help others beat this debilitating disease.  I consider myself lucky, because at the age of 21, I found my reason for living. Maybe the reason I have hydrocephalus is because I can help make a small change in the lives of others who are suffering.

Our WALK might be over, but the journey has just begun. Catch the wave and help us eliminate the challenges of hydrocephalus!

Related Links

Please contact the author Jen Bechard  directly, for any rights to republishing this post. Peg Mulligan’s blog is protected by copyright, but I give any appropriate rights back to guest bloggers, for posts they may have authored, but which were hosted at this blog.

Kicking off the “Live with Abundance” Series: Social Media for Good

n my “Finding the ‘Abundance Mentality’ with Social Media post last month, I talked about how social media, most especially Twitter, has raised my awareness of so many worthy causes and increased my personal “abundance mentality.” In “Links for Social Good, May 2009: Breast Cancer Awareness,” I tried to keep that giving and positive spirit going in this blog. That was when JBBC of Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer commented on my blog, and my abstract good intentions quite suddenly became more personal. Through JBBC’s visit to my blog, and my subsequent reading of her blog, “a cause” I supported (mainly, due to my own mom’s diagnosis and ultimate passing from breast cancer almost twenty-five years ago), became a real person again, whose voice and journey continue to inspire me. @JBBC and I interact on Twitter now, and her story is part of my awareness and vicarious emotional experience (what I guess we call empathy).

Over the last month, I read a post somewhere that expressed concern over whether social media and online experience in general may desensitize us to others’ experiences, or possibly hurt the way we interact in person. I very much believe that technology is neither good nor bad in itself, and it’s more how and why we use technology that determines its impact. In the case of JBBC’s blog, technology connected me to an amazing person, and made me more deeply feel her story, and by extension, the stories of all those who are going through cancer treatment, or like JBBC, are survivors of that treatment, moving forward with the rest of their lives. If social media technology can isolate and desensitize us, it can certainly also powerfully connect people and help us better emphasize with each other. Through social media, I have also attended several in-person events and met people whom I would have never known otherwise—a somewhat big-deal for a natural introvert (as many writers are) and busy, working mom of three, who doesn’t have a lot of time to socialize these days.

Perhaps like most things in life, social media technology is double-edged, with balance as the key.

Enter Jennifer Bechard, also known as @Jenn1423, on Twitter. Throughout the course of this month, a persistent and cheerful voice kept sending me the occasional shoutout, about supporting the Detroit Hydrocepephalus WALK. I’m from Boston, and I had no idea what hydrocepephalus was at the time, so the fundraising effort didn’t immediately capture my attention. —But there was something about Jennifer’s avatar (the picture that’s part of her profile on Twitter) that I instantly responded to and liked. I think it was (and still is) her smile and warm brown eyes.

So, when I was looking for a topic for my “Live with Abundance” series this month, I thought of all Jennifer’s diligent efforts to raise awareness on Twitter, and that’s mostly why I decided to highlight her fundraising effort. I was also curious about the word and condition hydrocepephalus, which were totally unfamiliar to me.

Though I knew Jennifer was Co-Chair of the Detroit Hydrocepephalus WALK, I didn’t realize that Jennifer herself was suffering from hydrocepephalus, or the full extent of what that means, until I opened her moving, determined, and faith-filled story, in my e-mail.

Is there a dark side to social media? Sure, probably, and you can read about it, here. But when you read Jennifer’s story, and the stories of amazing strength, inspiration, volunteerism, and social action that I plan this “Live with Abundance” series to present, you can rest assured that social media has a bright side, too.