Saturday, April 18, 2009


Although never proven, the current belief is that the "lost" settlers of the second Roanoke settlement were not killed by the Roanoke Indians, (who the governor of the first Roanoke settlement had really pissed off) but instead were taken under the protection of the friendly Croatoan Tribe who lived on an island to the south, in the Outer Banks. This is the most likely explanation, since that tribe (the Croatoans) had always been friendly to the English settlers, and, indeed, the governor of that (second) settlement had asked the Croatoans to take in the settlers if anything ever happened to threaten their survival. This was before the governor returned to England for supplies and was not able to return. Before he left, he had asked the settlers to leave a sign of some sort if they were forced to move to another location. It would therefore be logical to assume that is what happened to them in the intervening three years: the Croatoans took them in and absorbed them into their tribe.

This is further borne out by the fact that, 50 years later, members of the Croatoan Tribe had European features and spoke English. Ironically, this evidence of mixed blood is why the U.S. Government today does not recognize the Lumbee (successors to the original Croatoans) as an official Indian Tribe with the benefits that accompany such recognition. Is that unfair, or what? Thank you for taking them in and interbreeding with them! The State of North Carolina does recognize them as a tribe. (The Croatoans lived on an island in the Outer Banks of North Carolina just south of Roanoke, which is in Virginia. Today that island is called Hatteras.)


  1. The Lumbee aren't pure enough to be recognised as an official tribe? Ouch!

  2. Thanks, Max, truth is, I had only a very shady idea, it's just that in the dark barn that houses my memory, the catalogueing system is notoriously unreliable, and though the word "Roanoke" triggers "Croatoan" as a rsponse, all I could recall was that in the abandoned settlement, that word, crudely carved on a tree was the only clue.

    I'd been interested in failed colonies before, the disappearance of Leif Ericksonn's settlements in souther Greenland too. Nobody knows what happened. Starvation? plague? attack by native peoples? or did they just leave? for where?
    Europe and Iceland were devastated by plague, and at some time in the 15th century, the settlements (some five hundred farms) appear to have been abandoned. We know some went to "Vinland", but after ten years of attempts to settle in the face of hostile native attacks, that expedition returned to Greenland. The last written document from Greenland was in about 1408.
    Plague may have caused a cessation of vital transatlantic shipping, Inuit attacks may have killed the settlers, or they may have returned, somehow unrecorded, to Iceland or Norway. From the lack of household artifacts found in archaeological digs on the settlements, it appears that they packed up and left. But to where? and why? are the questions that nobody can answer. Also, given the norse saga makers, it is incomprehensible that there would be no records of such an important event in norse history.

    Damn. I got carried away again.

    I have heard that the dialects spoken on the islands of the Carolinas are the closest approximation to sixteenth century english still extant. I wonder if that's the legacy of the settlers of Roanoke?

  3. I knew about the European features (my mind is also a jumbled collection of unrelated trivia), but not that it was used as a weapon against the Croatoans and their descendants. As someone with a bit of Native American heritage myself, I'm not a bit surprised, but it's still adding insult to injury.

    Thanks for the bit of something I didn't know. Learning is fun!

  4. @A. - That's what I read. They still exist today. Unrecognized. That is quite important for an Indian Tribe today, money-wise. But hopefully it will change. You frequently read of long drawn-out court cases where the Tribe concerned appeals to the Federal Courts and often prevail. So, maybe in the future. I don't know if the Lumbees are currently suing for recognition or not.

    @Soubriquet - Go right ahead and get carried away. I learn much from what you probably think are ramblings, but which often provide me with the seed for some other interest which I then go look up. It is endless... :)

  5. @Stephanie - It could be that the tribe became even more homogenized over the centuries and intermingled to the point they can't really be recognized. But far be it for me to defend the federal government. :) On the other hand, a lot of the eastern tribes have greatly diluted blood and THEY are recognized. This bears looking into further. There is probably a story here. But later. I must try to forge ahead into the vast wasteland of Federalism. :)

  6. It is amazing how "the powers that be" can make such an arbitrary decision about the Lumbees, but then stranger things have happened here in our country

  7. I could probably Google this but I am asking you. If they were thought to have gone with the Croatoans why were they not found? Did no one look for them? Did they not know where to find the Croatoans? The colony was onlly left for what? Two years? I can't remember. (picture me with my finger up my nose saying duh!)

  8. @Frostygirl - Yes, a little strange. But Indian tribes are treated with special rights, and so it is important that we not recognize a group that is simply claiming to be Native American but are really not. Sometimes it takes a long time because smaller tribes have often assimilated into the general population. Often there are only a few left, or completely extinct. Then their ancestral lands have to be located and verified and, sometimes, an effort made to remove enough of the current inhabitants so a new reservation can be created. (Or substitute lands offered if the original is not sacred to the tribe.) Often these reservations in the east are quite small, sometimes even in cities. It is quite a job. Many of the treaties between the U.S. Government and the major western Indian nations have been in place for over a hundred years, but there are so many tribes in the east that assimilated, it is really hard to sort out. The final decision, if denied, is really with the federal courts. Often the U.S. Supreme court will make the final decision. Historically the courts make an obvious effort to accommodate the Native Americans whenever there is a dispute, rather than rule in favor of the federal government. But not always.

  9. @Ettarose - The people who returned from England knew where the Croatoans lived (on what is now Hatteras Island in your state) and tried to go there to look. Or so they said. They claimed stormy seas would not allow their ship to get close enough to the island. The ships were small, but one would imagine they would have waited for calm. That was their story anyway, from what I can find.



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