For centuries, the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island has been a controversial issue. Many theories exist that explain the disappearance of the colony. Some theories suggest that the colonists left the island to live with friendly neighboring Indians. Others suggest that a hurricane wiped out the colony or that a savage Indian tribe massacred them. The possibility of disease destroying them is also a debated topic. However, evidence indicates that the men and women left behind on Roanoke Island did not die because of massacre, disease, or starvation but went to live with the Croatoan Indians.
In 1587 a group of men, women, and children led by Sir John White set sail for America and landed on a North Carolina island called Roanoke (Shirley 36). However, the colonists arrived in North America at the wrong time of the year. Planting season was too far gone to attempt planting, growing, and reaping food, and the need for food was widespread in the colony (Worth 25). In the months subsequent to the colonists landing, circumstances required that John White would return to England to obtain more food and other much needed supplies. The colonists remained to fend for themselves, and that was the last John White saw of the colonists.
Three points in particular boldly stress the orderly departure of the colonists to live with the Indians. First, the colonists had a close relationship with the Croatoan Indians. This relationship resulted from John White’s acquaintance with a scout named Manteo. One prominent historian says that Manteo and his tribe, the Croatoan tribe, were the only Indians who remained friendly towards the colonists, and as directed by one of their leaders, “the English baptized ‘our savage Manteo’ and declared him lord of Roanoke” (Horwitz 303). Proclaiming Manteo lord of Roanoke demonstrated the strong relationship between the Croatoans and the colonists and that the colonists greatly trusted and respected Manteo. Furthermore, physical proof indicates that after John White left the colony to return to England, the colonists intermarried with the Indians. According to David Beers Quinn, author of Set Fair for Roanoke, the colonists and the Indians did intermarry (350). The colonists intermarrying with the Indians would cause some of the offspring to have genetic traits unusual for Indians, such as blue eyes or light colored hair. In his article about the lost colony, Scott Dawson writes that an explorer named John Lawson discovered blue eyed Indians dressed in English apparel; Dawson also says that the Indians claimed to have “White” descendants (6). Therefore, by making Manteo lord of Roanoke and intermarrying with the Indians, the colonists proved their strong relationship with the Croatoans.
Upon his return, John White met with no indications of the deaths of the colonists. Linda Kramer states that John White and the colonists agreed that in the event of leaving Roanoke, the colonists in a noticeable location would engrave the name of...