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Manteo (Flourished 1580s)

Manteo (Flourished 1580s)

Croatoan tribal leader


Journey to England. Manteo traveled voluntarily to England in 1584 with the initial ships sent to North Carolina by Sir Walter Raleigh. He learned English rapidly while living in London. He accompanied the first settlement attempt by the English on North Carolinas Outer Banks in 1585 as an interpreter and guide. In June 1586, however, he returned to England where he worked closely with Thomas Harriot and John White to complete a vocabulary of the Algonquian language. Both groups of men learned much about the others culture. Knowledge of the English language and ways enabled Manteo to take a dominant position among his people when he returned for good in 1587.

Return to the Outer Banks. Manteos mother ruled a small chiefdom in the area of present-day Cape Hatteras. When he returned to Roanoke Island once again with John White in 1587, he built upon his noble lineage and his intimate connections with powerful outsiders to assume a leadership position in the tribe. After being home a couple of months, the English baptized Manteo, who probably received at least the rudiments of Protestant education while in England. Manteo used such connections with the English to seize control over the Roanoke Island peoples after the English killed the previous leader, Wingina. When Raleighs ships returned to Roanoke Island in 1590, they discovered that the English colonists had disappeared. The only clue to the fate of these people was the word CROATOAN carved on a tree. What actually happened to the settlers remains uncertain to this day, but it is probable that many stayed with Manteo, who could communicate with them and teach them how to survive. In the early seventeenth century Indians reported English survivors living far inland, and other accounts suggested that the Powhatans killed English people living among their enemies the Chesapeakes, but no official confirmation ever surfaced.


David Beers Quinn, Set Fair for Roanoke: Voyages and Colonies, 15841606 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985).

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