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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.


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 (accessed May 22, 2012).

Origin - location: 



Waantam Kurowot…

My Goins family claims Croatan because they did not move south to the Lumber River, but remained North near Carbonton and the Granville Fishing District line in NC. I was told some Croatan have Lumbee Descendants but not all Lumbee have Croatan ancestors. I'm working on a project on to welcome those who never saw Croatan as just a slur, but abided by the laws of the Croatan Indians by not going to school outside of their tribe and by only marrying within the tribe. Are Croatan and Lumbee separate? Thank you for your time,


What’s the croatan tribes real name ? Super curious



That was their name - Croatoan.

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library


My family is part of the Croatan Indians. Most of the Futrell's (my surname) live in and around Jacksonville, NC. I'm am very interested in anything you could tell me, so that I could learn more about my heritage.


My father's side of the family came from southern Scotland as a minor partner on an English whaling ship that the crew settled in on Portsmouth Island on the Outer Banks in 1670. The ship set up a "business" on the island as a rendering station for whales, with the main products being whale bone, whale oil and such, that would be transported back to England. The Dixon house was rebuilt on Portsmouth Island in the 1970's by the National Park Service and is now the main welcome center there. The Dixon graveyard plots have been restored.
My mother's side of the family was Croatoan (now referred to as Lumbee). My grandmother was a twin and directly descended from the Hatteras area people. The English settlers didn't try to bring brides from the England area because of the harsh conditions so they chose local girls as wives. Because having "heathen" Native American wives was frowned on back home and within the community the women were quickly baptized before marriage by the resident clergy and given "Christian" first names. Thus the Native American names are lost but the names Dixon, Styron, Gaskill,, Midget, Lewis, and others still have deep roots in the Pamlico and Bogue Sound areas.


Thank you Phillip, really helped me with a slideshow I'm doing.


Good facts m8

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