Croatan Tribe – The legal designation in North Carolina for a people evidently of mixed Indian and white blood, found in various eastern sections of the state, but chiefly in Robeson County, and numbering approximately 5,000. For many years they were classed with the free Negroes, but steadily refused to accept such classification or to attend the Negro schools or churches, claiming to be the descendants of the early native tribes and of white settlers who had intermarried with them.
In the 1880’s their claim was officially recognized and they were given separate legal existence under the title of “Croatan Indians,” on the theory of descent from Raleigh’s lost colony of Croatan. The theory of descent from the lost colony may be regarded as baseless, but the name itself serves as a convenient label for a people who combine in themselves the blood of the wasted native tribes, the early colonists or forest rovers, the runaway slaves or other negroes, and probably also of stray seamen of the Latin races from coasting vessels in the West Indian or Brazilian trade.
Across the line in South Carolina are found a people, evidently of similar origin, designated “Redbones.” In portions of west North Carolina and east Tennessee are found the so-called “Melungeons” (probably from French melangé, ‘mixed’) or “Portuguese,” apparently an offshoot from the Croatan proper, and in Delaware are found the “Moors.” All of these are local designations for peoples of mixed race with an Indian nucleus differing in no way from the present mixed-blood remnants known as Pamunkey, Chickahominy, and Nansemond Indians in Virginia, excepting in the more complete loss of their identity. In general, the physical features and complexion of the persons of this mixed stock incline more to the Indian than to the white or blacks.
For Further Study on the Croatan Tribe
The following articles and manuscripts will shed additional light on the Croatan Tribe as both an ethnological study, and as a people.