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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Croatoan Indians

by Phillip W. Evans, 2006

Theodore de Bry Map, 1590. Courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania Libraries. The Croatoan Indians were a tribal group of Carolina Algonquians who probably inhabited both present-day Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands at the time of the arrival of the English explorers and colonists sent by Sir Walter Raleigh in the 1580s. Also called the Croatan, and later known as the Hatteras Indians, they were recognized as a distinct tribal group until the second half of the eighteenth century. Although they hunted and fished all along the northern Outer Banks and in its surrounding waters, their fields and towns were originally located on the forested sound side of Hatteras Island between modern-day Buxton and Hatteras. Theodore de Bry's 1590 map of Raleigh's Virginia showed three village symbols on Croatoan Island, now roughly the part of Hatteras Island that runs east to west. It is possible that the Croatoan also had a small habitation in the vicinity of present-day Ocracoke, then called "Wococon."

A scholar of Algonquian linguistics has suggested that the word "Croatoan" means "council town" or "talk town," which likely indicates the residence of an important leader and a place where councils were held. Archaeological remains of at least two other Croatoan villages have been located elsewhere on Hatteras Island. The Croatoan are best remembered today because the word " CROATOAN," carved in a post, was found by John White in 1590 in his search for the famous Lost Colony.

The Croatoan's principal town, Croatoan, was possibly located at a site on Cape Creek that has been identified and partially excavated by archaeologists. Undoubtedly, some modern-day residents of coastal North Carolina can claim with considerable justification to be the descendants of the Croatoan/Hatteras and other Algonquians of over two and three centuries ago, but no recognizable tribal entities survive. The remains of a sizable Indian village on Cape Creek and Pamlico Sound near Cape Hatteras have been discovered and to some extent explored by archaeologists under David Phelps of East Carolina University. In addition to artifacts of Indian manufacture, European trade goods have been recovered, giving added credibility to the recorded history of the Croatoan.

References:

F. Roy Johnson, The Algonquians: Indians of That Part of the New World First Visited by the English (2 vols., 1972).

David B. Quinn, Set Fair for Roanoke: Voyages and Colonies, 1584-1606 (1985).

David Stick, ed., An Outer Banks Reader (1998).

Image Credit:

Theodore de Bry Map, 1590. Courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania Libraries. Available from http://www.library.upenn.edu/exhibits/rbm/kislak/promotion/debry4.html (accessed May 22, 2012).

Origin - location: 

Comments

Comment: 

I took a few DNA tests and received 5th cousin matches to scores of people with names like Oxendine, Locklear, Lowry and Chavis. Yet both my parents born in Peru with no knowledge of American ties. Any thoughts?

Comment: 

I just received information from Ancestry .It listed a name Frederick Harden or Hardin as my third great grand father and he was half Croatoan Indian Born 1880 there was no date as to when he died could this be true?

Comment: 

It's possible it was the Lumbee tribe. Remnants of the Croatoan tribe made up the Lumbee tribe and at one point, the Lumbee tribe was called the Croatoan tribe in the 1800s and early 1900s. The Lumbee Tribe website is located at https://www.lumbeetribe.com/. 

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library

Comment: 

I have an ancestral line of Hardins from the same time period with Elisha Hardin marrying Sarah "Sally" Martin (Croatan Indian). I'm trying to combat road blocks with her. I haven't come across any Frederick Hardin, but thought it might be worth it to see if there is any cross over on our trees.

Comment: 

Such the great post here i like this very much.

Comment: 

Randy Davis lives in Sampson county he along with a few others are the remaining Croatan Indians of Sampson county. Croatan Indian was a separate race and appears on Randy and James David's Birth Certificates.

Comment: 

My Great Great Grandfather Enoch Manuel Wrote and published a book and in it act.1811 said Croatian Indians a forbidden to marry negroes. ? Is this true

Comment: 

Hello!

Great question. I tried to email you, but it bounced. Here is what I tried to send. 

There were a lot of laws that limited contact between slaves and free people of color with whites and native americans. I don’t think there was an act specifically limiting contact or intermarriage with a specific tribe.

As for 1811, there was no law at all that had to do with marriage. I think one of the very first laws about intermarriage was in 1715. Scroll down to page 65 section XV to read the law. (https://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.php/document/csr23-0001). CSR has all laws through 1790 (https://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/index.php/volumes scroll to te laws section). For laws beginning 1777-current, you can go to http://ncgovdocs.org/ and click on “session laws” on the right.

Hope this helps, and please let me know if I can help you further.

Erin Bradford, Governmet and Heritage Library

Comment: 

My father Robert Laney's mother was Croatan. Are there any Ancestors in this group? I want to know about my heritage.

Comment: 

I have had my DNA thru ancestry, it says 1% native american. I thought this was a lark since i have no Native American features. During my research i have just discovered that i do have a Native American ancestor named John Chaves(chavis) of the Croatoan Nation. I have trying to track down any information on these Native Americans. thanks

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