Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale (1994) was Disney’s low-budget, theatrically released offering for that year’s Thanksgiving season. Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale was released roughly seven months before Disney’s animated feature Pocahontas (1995). Both films attempt a revisionist history only to fall prey to stereotypes and nationalist sentiment. What could have been a kind of apologia for various Disney creations like “What Makes A Red Man Red?” from Peter Pan (1953) is instead a celebration of the white American myth of Thanksgiving.
Squanto (Adam Beach) is depicted as the “noble Indian” type with little regard for the reality of his life story. Disney’s Squanto is a kind and mystical Patuxet man who learns the “invaluable” lesson that not all white people are bad and that peace is preferable to war from a cloister of kind monks in England where he is held hostage. The life of Squanto the man and his role in history is reduced to a kid-friendly parable that amounts to little more than the tired quip “live and let live”. Squanto begins the film a warrior then learns that he too can be a white savior.
The filmmakers behind Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale are proud of themselves for putting Indigenous actors on film speaking their tribal languages. The filmmakers are also proud of themselves for having the forethought to show the evils and cruelties of European Imperialism. But most of all the people at Disney take pride in the fact that their de facto “holiday special” includes no more than two heroic white saviors. Even by the standards of the mid-nineties the politics and inclusivity present in Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale are a travesty.
Sadly, none of this is unexpected from the “House of Mouse”. Squanto, the hero in the film, gets his own animal sidekick (a hawk) just like his animated counterpart Pocahontas in her movie. Disney at the time and even now looks to exploit the political currents of a moment to make a buck and sneak in some of their own conservative messaging. Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale suggests in its title a film about Indigenous People even though what it ultimately is is an assault on the actual work that was being done to revise the public’s perceptions of one of America’s most problematic holidays.
So while we are all gorging ourselves this Thanksgiving just take a moment to remember that Patuxet and Nauset people who died at the hands of European settlers. Then reflect on how corporations like Disney, totems of American capitalism and racism, have honored those who perished at the hands of white settlers. Finally, remember that Mikey Mouse is the face of a brand that has always propagated systemic racism and celebrated white American values at the expense of every other American.