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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: 



Trying to trace my ancestry. I’m a supposed direct descendant of one of the colonists and I have native and English DNA.


I started following a Talley family line who intermarried and lived in the county of Person, North Carolina. Most of the Census takers around 1880 - 1900 - 1910 listed all the people in that area as "black" if they did not declare themselves to be "white". But in doing research in many of those lines their Death Certificates, etc. list them as Indian. And, a couple of Death Certificates listed the deceased as "Croatoan". I had to look up what the race "Croatoan" was as I had never heard of it.


Croatoan were native Americans helped out the English colonizers. The intermarried/relations with blacks free and enslaved and whites after my ancestors were wiped extinct by smallpox blankets and other European diseases. The remaining scattered members migrated mostly to present day lumbee. All my life we thought grandma was biracial black mom white daddy but not by choice. Not until well after her death, through census birth death and military records we can trace past the War of 1812 . On every document relatives listed as Croatoan and Croatoan mulato. There was a relative that died in a military hospital race undetermined, I can only assume that he pass for white but it was known his mother was at least part black. I was in shock that we traced her lineage that far and not a solid black relative on the line . Grandma did unintentionally pass for white. Her 13th child out of 16 was white blonde blue eyes she died at age 1. Most natives here in the Carolinas identity by their Native American tribe not black or white even though they clearly have mixed heritage, but it’s an enrollment process for each tribe to be recognized as Native American of that particular tribe. Many people like myself never knew their heritage and identity with whatever there mom identity as or what was put on birth certificate. MY mom is listed as negro as race on her birth certificate and her mother is mulato Croatoan and her dad as negro even though he has Native American heritage I am pretty sure we can trace because his last name of his mother is listed on the he roll of native Americans on North Carolina, and I think it was probably due to his dark complexion . My grandma maiden name is also a Native American roll. My mom had dna test done many years ago and we were shocked then that she’s not at least 50% black. Imagine our shock. Even had Mayan dna markers. She looks the definition of black but we have some strange attributes I’m our features.


this is a interesting topic, I'm trying to research 10 facts about the word croatoan and i would like to have answers, please get back to me as soon as possible, thank you.


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?


Get a refund


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?


He’s my 3rd great grandfather, too! I want to know more about his mother. Her name in ancestry is Croatan Indian Woman??? What is her real name?? She married a Hardin and Frederick was their son. I’m a match to both.


Understand where you’re coming from , we’re distant cousins . Let’s exchange information.


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 

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library

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