Our roots go back to Roanoke: Investigating the Link between the Lost Colony and the Lumbee People of North Carolina

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Singh, Renee. "Our roots go back to Roanoke: Investigating the link between the Lost Colony and the Lumbee People of North Carolina [Unpublished undergraduate student essay]." Prized Writing [UC Davis] 2006.


The fate of the lost colonists of Roanoke is a mystery, but they may the the ancestors of the Lumbee Tribe in North Carolina. The Lumbee Tribe is located in Robeson County, NC. The tribe is known for its electric, mixed culture. Other tribes, like the Catawba Indians, are also nontraditional.

The Roanoke colony was created by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1584 on an island called Roanoke Island when he and his men were stranded there. One hundred men built a colony. Later, all but 15 left when they were rescued. Later, a Portuguese navigate named Simon Fernandes led a colonization in Chesapeake Bay, and he was instructed to pick up the 15 men left at Roanoke. When they arrived in 1587, the men had vanished. Fernandes started his colony there. Later, the colony’s governor, John White, left to get more supplies from England. When he came back three years later after being held up by the Spanish Armada, the colonists had vanished.

Scientists have tried to figure out why the colonists left. Tree ring data collected from the bald cypress trees of NC suggests that the time in which the colonists vanished was the driest period in 800 years. They hypothesized that this causes the settlers to leave. Historical records point to influenza.

Another theory points to the Eno natives who lost several tribe members during the influenza outbreak. Scientists say they could have kidnapped the colony as slaves to make up for their lost tribe members. There are not many tribal records during this time. "However, a document dated 1725 does identify four Siouan-speaking groups living near a river called the 'Drowning River' in North Carolina. Today the 'Drowning River' is known as the 'Lumber River,' and tribal records for the Lumbee, which begin in the 1700s, show that the four Siouan-speaking groups are, in fact, the earliest documented ancestors of the Lumbee People” (para. 25). During the 1970s, the Lumbee people were typed for the Human leukocyte antigen and they had a low frequency of HLA-B40 while more Native American groups have a high frequency, which proves that admixture with Europeans has occurred int he tribe. The Lumbee people also have similar linguistic patterns as Europeans.

There is evidence to suggest that the Lumbee People of North Carolina are the descendents of the Roanoke colonists. The Lumbee people are trying to get federal recognition, which may be helped with genetic testing. Their ethnic identities must be protected.

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