Native American Culture/Tisquantum translation


Dear Dr. O'Brien,

Thank your for your work. I am an American Indian (Lakota/Shawnee)  
researching Tisquantum and am having a difficult time translating his  
name. From your work, I am understanding that "squantum" means angry.  
I see that Musquantum Manit means Great Spirit is angry. Thus I  
understand that "Mu" might mean "is" or "He"? This causes me to wonder  
what "Ti" might mean as it pertains to Tisquantum. I've searched your  
website and there are over 100 references to "ti". I'm hoping you  
would have a moment to help me translate "ti" so I can put together  
the literal translation of Tisquantum. Or if you have any references  
or other sources to suggest.

With great appreciation for your work,
and with warmest thoughts,
Paula Bidwell

Dear Paula

Thank you for your question on translating "Tisquantum". And thank you for your kind words.

As with so many old Indian words written down by Colonists we struggle with the spellings that are available.  Some times they are way off, other times, much is correct but some syllable(s) have been elided. For example,  Wequapaugset comes down as Boxet.  

  One plausible interpretation is given as "Rage of the Manitou".  That comes from a respectable publication at the Smithsonian.  You can read his entire article.  

Look at this work for a different interpretation that showed how older works showed great religous intolerance.

It is not always possible to do a fined grained etymological analysis on a word like Tisquantum.  The book we did is based on the Algonquina language(s) of southeastern New England.  We assumed  "correct" spellings (and the acholarly community has come to accept)that come from reliable Colonial sources (mainly J. Eliot, R. Williams)

Hope this helps you in your research

Frank Waabu

Native American Culture

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Dr. Frank Waabu O'Brien


Specialize in the extinct languages of Massachusett and Narragansett. Can answer general questions in most other areas, except genealogy-specific, pertaining to Indians of Southern New England (RI, MA, CT).


Past President, Aquidneck Indian Council. Have been researching & writing on subject since 1994. Two most recent books, A Cultural History of the Native Peoples of Southern New England (2007) & Understanding Indian Place Names in Southern New England (2010); See my current website

Abenaki Tribe, RI Indian Council, National Mus of the American Indian, The American Name Society, John Carter Brown Library (Brown University), Rhode Island Historical Society, Sigma Xi, International Order of Merit, Society of American Indian Government Employees (SAIGE)

"A Cultural History of the Native Peoples of Southern New England" (on Amazon); Recent book is "Understanding Indian Place Names in Southern New England"(on Amazon); see my website for free books at:

BA, RI College; MA, MPhil,PhD, Columbia

Awards and Honors
Who's Who in Sci & Engineering, International Order of Merit, Dictionary of International Biography, Asian/American Who's Who; 2010 DoD Meritorious Service Award (Society of American Indian Government Employees, SAIGE)

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