Roanoke Colony - Hypotheses On The Disappearance - Integration With Local Tribes

Integration With Local Tribes

In her 2000 book Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony, historian Lee Miller postulated that some of the Lost Colony survivors sought shelter with the Chowanoke, that was attacked by another tribe, identified by the Jamestown Colony as the "Mandoag" (an Algonquian name commonly given to enemy nations). The "Mandoag" are believed to be either the Tuscarora, an Iroquois-speaking tribe, or the Eno, also known as the Wainoke.

The so-called "Zuniga Map" (named for Pedro de Zúñiga, the Spanish ambassador to England, who had secured a copy and passed it on to Philip III of Spain), drawn circa 1607 by the Jamestown settler Francis Nelson, also gives credence to this claim. The map states "four men clothed that came from roonock" were living in an Iroquois site on the Neuse. William Strachey, a secretary of the Jamestown Colony, wrote in his The historie of travaile into Virginia Britannia in 1612 that, at the Indian settlements of Peccarecanick and Ochanahoen, there were reportedly two-story houses with stone walls. The Indians supposedly learned how to build them from the Roanoke settlers.

There were also reported sightings of European captives at various Indian settlements during the same time period. Strachey wrote in 1612 that four English men, two boys, and one maid had been sighted at the Eno settlement of Ritanoc, under the protection of a chief called Eyanoco. The captives were forced to beat copper. The captives, he reported, had escaped the attack on the other colonists and fled up the Chaonoke river, the present-day Chowan River in Bertie County, North Carolina. For four hundred years, various authors have speculated that the captive girl was Virginia Dare.

John Lawson wrote in his 1709 A New Voyage to Carolina that the Croatans living on Hatteras Island used to live on Roanoke Island and that they claimed to have had white ancestors:

A farther Confirmation of this we have from the Hatteras Indians, who either then lived on Ronoak-Island, or much frequented it. These tell us, that several of their Ancestors were white People, and could talk in a Book, as we do; the Truth of which is confirm'd by gray Eyes being found frequently amongst these Indians, and no others. They value themselves extremely for their Affinity to the English, and are ready to do them all friendly Offices. It is probable, that this Settlement miscarry'd for want of timely Supplies from England; or thro' the Treachery of the Natives, for we may reasonably suppose that the English were forced to cohabit with them, for Relief and Conversation; and that in process of Time, they conform'd themselves to the Manners of their Indian Relations.

From the early 17th century to the middle 18th century European colonists reported encounters with gray-eyed American Indians who claimed descent from the colonists (although at least one, a story of a Welsh priest who met a Doeg warrior who spoke the Welsh language, is likely to be a hoax). Records from French Huguenots who settled along the Tar River in 1696 tell of meeting Tuscaroras with blond hair and blue eyes not long after their arrival. As Jamestown was the nearest English settlement and they had no record of being attacked by Tuscarora, the likelihood that origin of those fair-skinned natives was the Lost Colony is high.

In the late 1880s, North Carolina state legislator Hamilton McMillan discovered that his "redbones" (those of Indian blood) neighbors in Robeson County claimed to have been descended from the Roanoke settlers. He also noticed that many of the words in their language had striking similarities to obsolete English words. Furthermore, many of the family names were identical to those listed in Hakluyt's account of the colony. Thus on February 10, 1885, convinced that these were the descendants of the Lost Colony, he helped to pass the "Croatan bill", that officially designated the Native American population around Robeson county as Croatan. Two days later on February 12, 1885, the Fayetteville Observer published an article regarding the Robeson Native Americans' origins. This article states:

"...They say that their traditions say that the people we call the Croatan Indians (though they do not recognize that name as that of a tribe, but only a village, and that they were Tuscaroras), were always friendly to the whites; and finding them destitute and despairing of ever receiving aid from England, persuaded them to leave, and go to the mainland... They gradually drifted away from their original seats, and at length settled in Robeson, about the center of the county..."

However, the case was far from settled. A similar legend claims that the now-extinct Saponi of Person County, North Carolina, are descended from the English colonists of Roanoke Island. Indeed, when these Native Americans were last encountered by subsequent settlers, they noted that these Native Americans already spoke English and were aware of the Christian religion. The historical surnames of this group also correspond with those who lived on Roanoke Island, and many exhibit European physical features along with Native American features. However, no documented evidence exists to link the Saponi to the Roanoke colonists.

Other tribes that claim partial descent from surviving Roanoke colonists include the Catawba (who absorbed the Shakori and Eno people), and the Coree and the Lumbee tribes. The Lost Colony DNA Project was established to test all of these claims.

Furthermore, Samuel A'Court Ashe was convinced that the colonists had relocated westward to the banks of the Chowan River in Bertie County, and Conway Whittle Sams claimed that after being attacked by Wanchese and Powhatan, the colonists scattered to multiple locations: the Chowan River, and south to the Pamlico and Neuse Rivers.

Read more about this topic:  Roanoke Colony, Hypotheses On The Disappearance

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