In a few instances …

by Lisa Y. Henderson


        The … Indians will be readily recognized from their general appearance, their intelligence, the color of their eyes, their skin, their straight black hair, their facial features, their erect carriage, their clannishness, their general habits and demeanor, that they are neither white people nor negroes. They do not resemble the negroes or mulattoes, in that their hair is perfectly straight. They have high cheek bones, they do not have flat noses, or thick lips. Many of them have grey eyes, and often have rose tints on their cheeks. They are usually tall and erect, they are cleanly in their habits and mode of living. They are usually land owners, and more thrifty and industrious. They live and congregate in certain localities, and are clannish, and in numerous ways show the Indian traits. 


        These people were never slaves and from the memory of the oldest white inhabitants have always been freemen. There is no record that they ever purchased their freedom from former white men. They were never born nor sold into slavery; they were found living in this country as free and separate people as long ago as we have any record of them. In a few instances there has been some mixture of white and negro blood in them. The whites and the negroes have not been so careful in guarding against the amalgamation of those two races as have these Indians, to preserve intact and prevent their Indian blood from mixture with the other two races. In a few instances these Indians have intermarried with mulattoes, but such intermarriages have been discouraged among them, and in most cases, the parties to such marriages have been ostracised socially from the churches and schools of these Indians. 


        Since 1868, the white people in Sampson County, as a rule, have classed these Indians with the negroes and refused to recognize them except as negroes. They have consequently been forced, in a measure, with the negro race, but they have steadfastly refused to be classed with the negroes. They have refused to attend the churches and the schools of the negroes or to co-mingle with them on terms of social equality. It is marvellous that they have been able to maintain their racial status so well under the adverse social and political status which has been forced upon them by the white people. It shows that they have an ambition to improve their condition and to build themselves upward, morally, socially, and educationally, rather than to be pulled down to a level with the inferior race, with whom they would be socially classed. It is nothing but common justice to these people that the white race, which has done so much and is now endeavoring to do still more, for the education and material progress and welfare of all the people of the State, of every race, that the efforts of these Indians to build up and maintain their superior social and intellectual status from the negro race, should be encouraged in every proper way, as they have been encouraged and recognized in several other counties of the State, in which they are less numerous. It will make them better citizens and at no substantial extra cost to the white and colored race, for them to have their separate schools and churches. They will feel that they have not been discriminated against and that they have been treated with the same fairness and consideration that their people of the same race and blood are given in adjoining counties.

From George E. Butler, “The Croatan Indians of Sampson County, North Carolina. Their Origin and Racial Status. A Plea for Separate Schools,” (1916).