Set in the early 17th century, a New England Patuxet is captured by English settlers. He is then returned to England but escapes with a group of men that sell him back to New England, along with Epenow, a Nauset from Martha's Vineyard who soon becomes a friend.
When in Massachusetts it seems the English and Squanto's followers have an argument, leading to the crew being massacred at night. He then finds his village sacked and destroyed and thus meeting the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, he stops a war from breaking out between them and another Native American group.
In Europe, Squanto and Epenow are savages. These are the well-dressed Englishmen, headed by Sir George, the repugnant nobleman who owns the ship and pursues in a ridicule and persecution of the two "creatures" brought back. As a welcome, Squanto gets thrown in a ring with a giant bear. Their battle becomes a spectacle for the English.
Using his superior athleticism, Squanto is able to escape, and he rows off on a boat. When he's discovered, he's lying unconscious on a rocky shore, and his finders are a trio of monks who had been fishing.
Squanto is taken into their monastery, in spite of the reluctancy of head Brother Paul. The monk who offers the most open arms, Brother Daniel, becomes a mentor and friend to Squanto. From Brother Daniel, Squanto learns English, and at the same time, he imparts some knowledge about his world to his new housemates, introducing them to mocassins and popcorn. Brother Paul remains skeptical of 'the pagan' and in any possibility of a "New World".
Meanwhile, Sir George firmly believes that Squanto belongs to the Plymouth printing company, and he has men on the hunt. In another cinematic sequence, Squanto pulls off an improbable escape to accompany Epenow and the crew setting sail back to America.
What Squanto returns to devastates him. His tribe has been entirely killed off by illness that the Europeans brought. Epenow wishes to turn violent against the English who mistreated them. The Englishmen and Nauset tribe are ready to do battle, but Squanto manages to settle things peacefully. The last scenes of the film portray the first Thanksgiving celebration.
Adam Beach .... Squanto
Sheldon Peters Wolfchild .... Mooshawset
Irene Bedard .... Nakooma
Eric Schweig .... Epenow
Leroy Peltier .... Pequod
Michael Gambon .... Sir George
Nathaniel Parker .... Thomas Dermer
Alex Norton .... Harding
Mark Margolis .... Captain Thomas Hunt
Julian Richings .... Sir George's Servant
Mandy Patinkin .... Brother Daniel
Donal Donnelly .... Brother Paul
Stuart Pankin .... Brother Timothy
Paul Klementowicz .... Brother James
Bray Poor .... Doctor Fuller
Tim Hopper .... William Bradford
John Saint Ryan .... Myles Standish
John Dunn-Hill .... Governor John Carver
Selim Running Bear Sandoval .... Attaquin
The native language used in the film is Mi'kmaq, historically spoken in Nova Scotia but not Massachusetts. The film has been criticized for its historical inaccuracies. Incidentally, the following year Disney released Pocahontas, an animated film which was also about a historical Native American figure, Pocahontas, and was also highly criticized for its distortion of history. Both films also featured Native American actress Irene Bedard in starring roles.
Two years earlier, Schweig portrayed Black Thunder in CBC's mini-series By Way of the Stars with Gordon Tootoosis who voiced Kekata in Pocahontas. It later aired on the Disney Channel.
Beach and Bedard were also cast members for "Song of Hiawatha" (1997) which starred Litefoot as the titular role. It was shot in British Columbia.
Beach and Schweig met again for HBO's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee in 2007.