The Croatan Indians of Sampson County, North Carolina: Their Origin and Racial Status

The Croatan Indians of Sampson County, North Carolina: Their Origin and Racial Status

The Croatan Indians of Sampson County, North Carolina: Their Origin and Racial Status

The Croatan Indians of Sampson County, North Carolina: Their Origin and Racial Status

Synopsis

The Croatan Indians of Sampson County, NC, written by George Edwin Butler (1868-1941) and composed only a year after Special Indian Agent Orlando McPherson's Indians of North Carolina report, was an appeal to the state of North Carolina to create schools for the "Croatans" of Sampson County just as it had for those designated as Croatans in, for example, Robeson County, North Carolina. Butler's report would prove to be important in an evolving system of southern racial apartheid that remained uncertain of the place of Native Americans. It documents a troubled history of cultural exchange and conflict between North Carolina's native peoples and the European colonists who came to call it home. The report reaches many erroneous conclusions, in part because it was based in an anthropological framework of white supremacy, segregation-era politics, and assumptions about racial "purity." Indeed, Butler's colonial history connecting Sampson County Indians to early colonial settlers was used to legitimize them and to deflect their categorization as African-Americans. In statements about the fitness of certain populations to coexist with European-American neighbors and in sympathetic descriptions of nearly-white "Indians," it reveals the racial and cultural sensibilities of white North Carolinians, the persistent tensions between tolerance and self-interest, and the extent of their willingness to accept indigenous "Others" as neighbors.

Excerpt

State of North Carolina+2014County of Sampson.

To the Honorable Board of Education of Sampson County, North Carolina: the undersigned, your petitioners, a part of the Croatan Indians living in the County of Sampson, State aforesaid, having their residence here for more than two hundred years, as citizens and tax payers of the County and State, peacefully sharing all the burdens of our government, and desiring to share in all the benefits incident thereto, respectfully petition your Honorable Board for such recognition and aid in the education of their children as you may see fit to extend to them, the amount appropriated to be used for the sole and exclusive purpose of assisting your petitioners to educate their children and fit them for the duties of citizenship.

Your petitioners would show that there are, according to the bulletin of the thirteenth census of 1910, two hundred and thirteen Indians in Sampson County. And, that there are of legal school age, for whom there now no separate school provisions, over one hundred Indian school children. That these children are not permitted to attend, and have no desire to attend, the white schools, and in no other section of the State are they required to attend the colored schools.

That they are a distinct and separate race of people, and are now endeavoring, as best they can, at their own expense, to build and maintain their own schools, without any appropriation from the county or state, notwithstanding, they cheerfully pay taxes for this purpose, and otherwise share in the burdens and benefits of the government.

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