Between 'Savage Man' and 'Most Faithful Englishman'

Manteo and the Early Anglo-Indian Exchange, 1584-1590

by Michael Leroy Oberg


Manteo and Wanchese returned to America aboard the fleet that departed from Plymouth in April of 1585, anchoring near Wococon Island, some distance south of Roanoke, on the 26th of June. Things began badly for [153] the expedition. The flagship, the Tyger, commanded by Sir Richard Grenville, ran aground near Wococon. Though the ship was saved, saltwater poured into the hold, ruining the provisions on board, and leaving the colonists with food for only twenty days. The colonists arrived too late in the year to plant their own crops. Unless they could obtain food from the Indians, they faced the prospect of starvation.32

Undeterred, Grenville fitted out smaller ships to explore the Pamlico Sound and the Carolina mainland. Grenville, apparently, did not agree with Barlowe's earlier assessment of the suitability of Roanoke Island as the site for an English settlement, and he hoped to find a better location. On the third of July, Grenville sent word to Wingina that the English had arrived. It is likely that Wanchese accompanied the Englishmen who sailed on this short voyage; he would not return to the English.33 Three days later, 'Master John Arundell was sent to the mayne, and Manteio with him', perhaps to look for Wanchese. Manteo and Arundell returned to Wococon in time to accompany a larger expedition which departed on the eleventh in three boats, and which included Harriot, Amadas, White, the colony's eventual governor Ralph Lane, and some sixty men.34 On the twelfth this party reached the palisaded village of Pomeioke. One day later they reached Aquascogoc, and on the fifteenth Secotan, where the explorers 'were well intertayned there of the savages'.35 White made numerous drawings at Secotan and Harriot conversed there with the villagers on matters of religion in some detail. To do so, Harriot would have found an Indian interpreter of great assistance, and he must have had Manteo with him.36

By the twenty-first, the expedition had returned to Wococon, from whence the English fleet quickly 'wayed anker for Hatoraske', moving northward along the Outer Banks. On the twenty-seventh, the fleet 'ankered at Hatoraske'. Manteo, and perhaps others, made the quick trip across to Roanoke. Two days later, 'Grangino, brother to King Wingino, came aboord the Admirall, and Manteo with him'. Granganimeo invited the colonists to plant their outpost at Roanoke. Grenville, now convinced that no better site existed, began the process of establishing a fortified base on the northern tip of the island, not far from Wingina's village.37

The colonists, with the help of Manteo, quickly reestablished friendly relations with the Roanoke Indians. The surviving records indicate a significant degree of interaction among natives and newcomers, placing consequently a premium on the talents of those capable of bridging the cultural divide. In the colony's early months, Manteo, Harriot, and John White played a crucial role in mediating and brokering a tenuous middle ground on the Carolina Outer Banks.

It would not last. Hungry English settlers, lacking supplies since the Tyger ran aground, placed increasingly dangerous pressure on Carolina Algonquian subsistence systems, especially during the lean months of winter and early spring. It is not at all surprising that relations between natives and newcomers began visibly to deteriorate in the early months of 1586, when [154] corn supplies from the previous year would nearly have been consumed. It would be wrong, however, to focus solely on events at Roanoke in terms of an Algonquian subsistence crisis, for such an explanation cannot fully account for the behaviour of Manteo, Wanchese, Wingina, and other natives in the face of English settlement. Native beliefs about power, or mantoac, played a vital role in shaping the Indian response. If technology convinced some Roanoke natives that the English had access to powerful and attractive items that were more 'the works of god then of men', others believed that the power of the English could manifest itself in malevolent forms. Indians on the Outer Banks weighed both considerations as they confronted the colonists.

English diseases, which quickly began to ravage native communities on the Outer Banks, both frightened and impressed Carolina Algonquians. In some villages the English entered, Harriot wrote, 'the people began to die very fast, and manie in short space: in some towns about twenties in some fourtie, in some sixtie, & in one sixe score, which in trueth was very manie in respect of their numbers'. Disease, according to Harriot, the Indians considered 'the worke of our God through our meanes, and that wee by him might kil and slaie whom wee would without weapons and not come neere them'. In Indian eyes the English controlled an enormously powerful force -'invisible bullets', they said - that devastated native communities, and so impressed the Indians that 'some people could not tel whether to thinke us gods or men'.38

The English settlement was small, barely one hundred men, but it did much damage. Throughout the early contact period, even cursory contact with Europeans could launch horrible epidemics in native communities.39 This devastation and the widespread belief among Indians on the Outer Banks that the English were more powerful than they, generated divisions within the Roanoke community. English power, it seemed, could both harm and help Indians. Though they could agree that they had declined relative to the English, Roanoke Indians divided over how best to respond.

At the two extremes were Manteo and Wanchese. Manteo had anglicised enough to earn the trust and respect of the English colonists, even those as suspicious of Indian motives, and as wary of treachery, as the colony's governor, Ralph Lane.40 No evidence exists to suggest that Manteo ever wavered in his cooperation, and ultimate identification with the English. His motives for doing so cannot be reconstructed with absolute certainty. It seems at least plausible that he found opportunity, advantage, status and security through cooperation with what he recognised as the more powerful English. If the Croatoans were subject to Wingina, a close relationship with the English might grant him additional prestige. Wanchese, on the other hand, quickly abandoned the English and appears to have been deeply hostile toward the colonists. Perhaps he had been poorly-treated by the English who, Professor Quinn has suggested, showered favours in England upon Manteo, an individual purportedly of higher status is his native [155] community.41 Or, perhaps, he had seen enough during his year in England to eliminate any affections he may initially have entertained towards the colonists. Certainly after his return to Roanoke he no longer was impressed by English power, and saw the colonists as the source of his community's problems.

Others, who had not gone to England, wavered between these two poles, trying to secure their people's survival in an arena of rending social change. Roanoke Island became the scene of a debate within the Native American community. For instance, Granganimeo, and Ensenore, described as a 'savage father' to Wingina, accepted that the English were more powerful than they and hoped to secure their survival through careful accommodation to, and cooperation with, the colonists.42 Ensenore, for example, clearly feared the power of the English. According to Harriot, Ensenore was among those who 'were of the opinion that we were not borne of women, and therefore not mortal, but that we were men of an old generation many yeeres past, and risen againe to immortalitie'.43 According to Ralph Lane, Ensenore had 'opposed himselfe in their consultations against al matters proposed against us', and warned those 'amongst them that sought our destruction' that instead they 'should finde their owne, and not be able to work ours'. Fearing what he believed to be extremely powerful, otherworldly beings, 'dead men returned into the world againe [...] that [...] doe not remayne dead but for a certaine time, and that then [...] returne againe', Ensenore believed it impossible to kill the English.44

Ensenore's warnings that the English 'were the servants of God', and that the colonists 'were not subject to be destroyed by them', clearly carried some weight with Wingina. He may have been among those Roanokes who, in the spring of 1586, sought the assistance of English prayers to combat the effects of drought. Unlike Manteo and Wanchese, whose experiences with the English had formed for them strong impressions of the English, Wingina, Ensenore, Granganimeo and others felt their way along slowly. They tried to understand the sources of English power and to incorporate that power into their accustomed ways of living. This they did through joining the English in prayer, in the singing of psalms, and other ritualistic activities. They assessed carefully how best to protect the interests of their community when confronted by visitors who appeared to have the power to do things that Indians could not.

In this atmosphere of acute social and cultural dislocation, some Roanokes beseeched the English to send disease amongst their native enemies so that they 'might in like sort die'.45 Others sought the assistance of English prayers - English rituals - to preserve their corn during a period of drought, 'fearing that it had come to passe by reason that in some thing they had displeased us'. Harriot noted that 'there could at no time happen any strange sicknesse, losses, hurtes, or any other crosse unto them, but that they would impute to us the cause or meanes therof for offending or not pleasing us'.46 Many, searching for moorings amidst a maelstrom of change, [p. 156] hoped to halt the epidemiological onslaught visited upon their communities through active participation in the public rituals of English Christianity. 'When as wee kneeled downe on our knees to make our prayers unto god', Harriot wrote, 'they went about to imitate us, and when they saw we moved our lipps, they also dyd the like'. If the English caused the disease by shooting their 'invisible bullets' at the Indians, and if the disease did not affect the English, it made sense to seek protection through English means.47

Wingina, according to Harriot, joined the English in the rituals of prayer and the singing of psalms, 'hoping thereby to be partaker of the same effectes which wee by that meanes also expected'. When on two occasions he became 'so grievously sicke that he was like to die, and as he lay languishing, doubting of anie help by his owne priestes', Wingina called upon the English 'to praie and bee a meanes to our God that it would please him either that he might live, or after death dwell with him in blisse'.48 Others, believing strongly in a connection between English power and the Bible, desired to 'touch it, to embrace it, to kisse it, to hold it to their breasts and heades, and stroke over all their bodie with it'. To Harriot, a man full of sincere philanthropic intentions for the Indians, this behavior demonstrated the natives' 'hungrie desire of that knowledge which was spoken of'. Harriot, as acute an observer as he was, missed the point. Those Roanokes who joined the English in prayer desired Christianity less than they did access to the power that enabled the English to remain alive on the Outer Banks while Indians suffered.49

For Wingina this effort appears to have been nothing less than profoundly disillusioning. Buffeted in a world of rapid change, Wingina experimented with English cultural forms in order to secure the power that preserved and bestowed so many benefits upon the settlers. English power, however, provided few answers for beleaguered Algonquians, and it manifested itself in malevolence, death, and suffering. Wingina moved rapidly away from the accommodationism of Granganimeo and Ensenore, and towards Wanchese's more openly hostile position. Deaths from disease continued, and Granganimeo was among the casualties. The rains never came, despite, their prayers. Lane's hungry settlers placed increasingly dangerous pressure upon limited Roanoke food supplies. Like Wanchese, Wingina arrived at the conclusion that his people's problems stemmed from contact with the English.

Accordingly, Wingina began to work toward effecting a complete separation between the Indian and white worlds on the Carolina Outer Banks. After the death of his brother Granganimeo sometime during the winter of 1585-1586, Wingina changed his name to Pemisapan and began making plans to abandon Roanoke Island. The precise significance of the name change is not clear. The anthropologist Helen Rountree has pointed out that Powhatan leaders changed their names on occasion. Opechancanough, for instance, took a new name during the winter of 1621-1622, prior to the surprise attack he launched against English colonists in Virginia in March [p. 157] 1622.50 James A. Geary, a linguist who assembled a glossary of Carolina Algonquian words, suggests that the name might reflect the vigilant attitude of one who watches from a distance, or one who supervises, 'as if that were his office'.51 Although Lane noted that the new name was taken upon Granganimeo's death, it is not likely that the name reflected a change in Pemisapan's political status. Barlowe, in 1584, indicated that Wingina already was 'king' at Roanoke. Wingina's adoption of a new name, however, may be related closely to Roanoke spirituality and the weroance's perception of the English. Pemisapan, one who watches closely, may have recognised that his people's survival was dependent upon separating themselves from the English, whose arrival on the Carolina Outer Banks, more than the powerful items they carried with them, had initiated drastic and devastating changes in his community.

Lane said little about the meaning of the name change and believed that Pemisapan began at this time organizing a conspiracy with Indians throughout the coastal region to exterminate the English settlers. Pemisapan's proximity to the English, the story went, would have provided him with enough richly valued English trade goods, especially copper, to purchase a large following. Pemisapan knew that Lane intended to embark in the spring of 1586 on a voyage of exploration into the Albemarle Sound. According to Lane's own self-serving account, Pemisapan sent word ahead to the powerful Choanokes and Mangoaks of the interior, warning them that Lane and his men intended to attack and kill any Indians they encountered. Indians along the Sound, then, should abandon their villages, remove their corn, and so starve the English expedition.52 Lane wrote his account of these events after his return to England in 1586; at the time of his expedition, he could not possibly have been aware of the details of this plot, for he still took seriously an ominous warning from Pemisapan that a 'confederacie against us of the Chaonists and Mangoaks' was assembling upriver with the intent of destroying the English settlement. It was to confront this 'confederacie' that Lane began his voyage.53

Lane and his men sailed in a pinnace to the head of the Albemarle Sound. Manteo was along, as well as three Roanoke Indians, Tetepano, Erecano, and Cossine. There, some time early in March, the expedition climbed aboard smaller vessels for the ascent of the Chowan River. This a was the territory of Menatonon, the leader of the Chowanoacs. What Lane saw there impressed him. He wrote, 'Choanoke it selfe is the greatest Province and Seignorie lying upon that River'.54

When Lane arrived at Chowanoac, he chanced upon a meeting of representatives from the Weapemeocs, Moratucs,55 and Mangoaks. His actions reveal that, at the time, he believed he had encountered the Chowanoac-Mangoak confederacy of which Pemisapan earlier had spoken. Lane stormed the gathering, seized Menatonon, and held him hostage. For the next two days, almost certainly with the assistance of Manteo, Lane interrogated the leader, who provided him with 'more understanding and light [p. 158] of that Countrey then I had received by all the searches and salvages that before I or any of my companie had had conference with'.56

Menatonon provided Lane with information on the geography of the region that whetted the soldier's appetite for glory and gold. Three days further up the Chowan River, Lane was told, and then four days' travel overland, 'a certaine Kings countrey whose Province lyeth upon the Sea' would be found. This, to Lane, sounded like an easily defended route to the Chesapeake Bay. He devised a plan to follow Menatonon's course once fresh supplies arrived from England.57 Menatonon's reports of what lay further up the Roanoke River, however, were of more immediate interest to Lane. Forty days upstream at the head of the river, a 'huge rocke' could be founde, which stood so close 'unto a Sea, that many times in stormes (the winde coming outwardly from ye Sea) the waves thereof are beaten into the said fresh streamer so that fresh water for a certaine space, groweth salt and brackish'.58 Lane also heard from Menatonon that the natives in this region panned for 'a marveilous and most strange Minerall' that sounded curiously like gold.59

Lane resolved to follow the Roanoke River course outlined by Menatonon. He released the chief but took his son, Skiko, hostage. Lane also concluded what he believed to have been a 'league' with representatives of the Moratucs and Mangoaks. He then returned to the head of Albemarle Sound, sent Skiko, in the pinnace, back to Roanoke Island, and prepared to ascend the Roanoke River 'with two double wherries' and forty men.60

Lane was short of food, and hoped to obtain supply from the Moratucs and Mangoaks as he moved westward. This, he believed, had been the substance of his agreement with them. Toward the end of the second day, Lane heard 'certaine savages call as we thought, Manteo, who was also at this time with mee in boate'. The Englishmen, 'hoping of some friendly conference with them', enthusiastically called upon Manteo to respond. He did so, and the Indians, invisible to the English along the wooded banks of the Roanoke River, 'presently began a song'. Lane and his men felt welcome, and comforted, but Manteo 'presently betooke him to his peece', his English gun. The Indians, Manteo told Lane, 'ment to Fight with us'.61 A volley of arrows, launched from cover along the shore, 'did no hurt God be thanked to any man'. Lane put his men ashore to pursue their hidden attackers, but the Indians escaped.62

The next morning Lane, convinced 'that we were betrayed by our own Savages and of purpose drawn foorth by them, upon vaine hope to be in the ende starved', decided to return to Roanoke Island. Whether Pemisapan actually hoped to eliminate Lane, and whether he actually was conspiring against the English or not, he certainly did not expect Lane to return from his voyage into the Sound.

During Lane's absence, the Roanokes 'raised a bruite among themselves that I and my company were part slayne, and part starved'. Pemisapan and his followers also, according to Lane, 'contrary to their former reverend [p. 159] opinion in shew, of the almightie God of heaven, and Jesus Christ [...] whome before they would acknowledge and confesse the onely God', began to 'blaspheme'. According to Lane, Indians on Roanoke began 'flatly to say, that our Lord God was not God, since hee suffered us to sustaine much hunger, and also to be killed of the Renapoaks, for so they call by that general name, all the inhabitants of the whole mayne, of what province soever'.63 Believing himself rid of Lane, and disaffected with the English, Pemisapan rallied support among the Roanokes and convinced many that the English god lacked spiritual power. As such, Pemisapan argued, the Indians ought to turn their backs on the English. Through their acquisition of trade goods from the settlers and experimentation with the rituals of the colonists' religion, the Roanoke Indians actively had pursued English spiritual power. The costs of this pursuit had been unacceptably and devastatingly high. To stop paying that price, they must separate themselves from the English. Abandonment of the island would lead to the destruction of the remaining colonists, for Pemisapan knew that the English were desperately short on supplies and, more importantly, that they could not feed themselves.64

Lane's return on Easter Sunday, however, forced Pemisapan to abandon his plans to leave the island and generated renewed divisions within the Indian community on Roanoke. Lane had returned from an expedition into the territory of 'those whose very names were terrible unto them'. Clearly, Lane had demonstrated his power, and as a consequence Ensenore and others warned against any hostile attempt against the English.65

Perhaps Pemisapan shared in this reassessment of English power. Certainly, at Ensenore's urging, he planted a crop of corn for the English, helped them construct fishing weirs and, according to Lane, changed 'in disposition towards us'. But this period of accommodation would not last long. On April 20, 1586, Ensenore, 'the only frend to our nation that we had amongst them', succumbed to disease, discrediting in Pemisapan's eyes the accommodationist path he had followed.66

After the death of Ensenore, according to Lane, Pemisapan, along with 'certaine of our great enemies', including Wanchese, 'were in hand again to put their old practices in ure against us'. Wanchese and Pemisapan viewed the English, once feared and respected for the power they demonstrated, as the source of their community's problems, a violent and pestilential people who placed great strains on Roanoke food supplies. Led by Pemisapan, the Roanokes abandoned the island and moved to the mainland village of Dasemunkepeuc, dooming the English colony. Their intent, Lane believed, was 'starving us by [... ] forbearing to sowe'.67

Lane faced more than starvation, however. He believed that Pemisapan would use Dasemunkepeuc as the base from which to launch a massive, multi-tribal assault upon the colonists. Lane determined to attack before Pemisapan could put his plan into effect. On the first of June, Lane led 27 soldiers to Dasemunkepeuc. Manteo, who had friends in the village, [p. 160] accompanied the force. The soldiers approached Pemisapan and his men, who appear to have suspected nothing. They opened fire without warning. Pemisapan was wounded twice but still managed to escape into the woods. Edward Nugent, an Irishman in Lane's service, pursued the fleeing weroance while Lane busied himself 'looking as watchfully for the saving of Manteos friends'. He couldn't afford to alienate his last Indian ally through an indiscriminate slaughter of friend and foe alike. A short time later, Nugent emerged from the woods with Pemisapan's head in his hand.68 A few weeks after this attack, Lane and his men, along with their lone Indian ally, abandoned Ralegh's first Roanoke Colony.


The English colonists left Roanoke Island in a hurry. Much was lost, including a large portion of John White's original artwork and Thomas Harriot's research material. Three men, journeying in the interior, were left behind. Sir Francis Drake, in fact, who commanded the fleet that offered Lane and his men passage back to England, may have deposited several hundred black slaves and central American Indians on the Outer Banks to make room for the colonists, a first, and forgotten 'lost colony', ignored by generations of American mythmakers and historians who believed, as one chronicler put it, that only men of 'the purest Anglo-Saxon Blood' colonised America.69

But something more might have been lost in 1586 at Roanoke Island. The English, at least in part, had launched their invasion of America upon waves of benevolent intent. Sir Walter Ralegh had premised his plans for America on a 'dream of liberation', in Edmund S. Morgan's words, in which bold Englishmen would carry civility and English Christianity to America, bringing benefit to natives and newcomers alike. Ralegh's empire would, had it lived up to expectations, have been an Anglo-American empire.70

It is with these thoughts in mind that Manteo takes on such great significance. In the rush to abandon the colony, he was not left behind. He chose to climb aboard the boats as they rowed out to join Drake's fleet. He was not expendable. More than anyone, perhaps, he embodied metropolitan hopes for the new world. And more than many, perhaps, he represents the ultimate tragedy of their failure. Men like the elder and younger Richard Hakluyt, those great promoters of English maritime expansion; John White, Thomas Harriot, and their publisher Theodor De Bry; Ralegh, at times, as well; all viewed the Indians of the Roanoke region in progressive terms. The Indians, they believed, would participate if properly guided in a natural historical process whereby all societies moved upwards, becoming more civilised as time passed. This understanding of human development lay at the heart of White's inclusion in his portfolio of drawings a sampling of Brazilian, Roman, medieval European, Inuit, Turkish, Tartar, Pict and [p. 161] Ancient British figures.71 The same understanding informed Harriot, Hakluyt the Younger, and De Bry's decision to include in the 1590 edition of Harriot's Brief and True Report of the Newe Found Land of Virginia an appendix containing images 'of the Pictes which in the olde tyme dyd habite one part of the great Bretainne'. As De Bry wrote in his badly ractured English, White gave him a number of drawings of Ancient British figures, 'fownd as hy did assured my in a oold English cronicle, the which I wold well sett to the ende of thees first Figures, for to showe how that the Inhabitants of the great Bretannie have bin in times past as sativage as those of Virginia'.72 The conviction that the English had at one time been as 'sauvage' as the natives of North America clearly undergirded their optimistic belief that, like their forebears, Indians too would progress. Manteo, indeed, seemed living proof.73

Yet if these English idealists were attracted to the bright, shining example of Manteo, it is not always easy to discern why he felt attracted to them. Power played a role. Status and security likely were additional benefits accruing from close association with the English. Perhaps with Wanchese an important anti-English voice on Roanoke Island, Manteo had nowhere else to go but England. Speaking English, wearing English clothing, and carrying an English gun, he appears to have identified himself fully with the colonists by 1586.

Manteo would play a critically important role in Ralegh's second and final attempt to plant a colony on American shores. Indeed, given his centrality, it seems likely that he contributed to the planning for the venture launched with Ralegh's blessing in 1587.74 White would lead an expedition composed of families to plant an agricultural settlement somewhere near the month of the Chesapeake Bay. A short reconnaissance there in 1585 led White, Harriot, and Ralegh to believe that the Indians occupying these fertile lands would willingly accommodate a self-sufficient white settlement. The expedition would have to pass Roanoke Island on its way north towards the Chesapeake. White would stop briefly to look for the three men left behind the year before as well as for a small party of fifteen men left on the island in 1586 by Grenville, who had arrived too late to resupply Lane's colony.75 Ralegh instructed White also to baptise Manteo on Roanoke Island and to install him as 'Lorde therof, and of Dasamongueponke, in reward of his faithful service'. Manteo would serve as a sort of feudal lord under Ralegh on the margins of England's Atlantic world.76

White's colonists arrived at Hatorask, where they anchored, on the twenty-second of July 1587. The governor hoped to cross over to Roanoke, find Grenville's party, and gather whatever information they might have 'concerning the state of the Countrey, and Savages'. He then would return to the fleet, 'and passe along the coast, to the Baye of Chesepiok, where we intended to make our seate and forte'.77

The expedition's pilot, Simon Ferdinando, however, refused to take the colonists any farther north, and unloaded them at Roanoke Island. White [p. 162] found the fort constructed by Lane in 1585 'rased downe' by the Indians, and no sign of any of the Englishmen who had been left before on the island. Five days later, Howe was killed. The colonists found his body after the Indians had given to him 'sixteene wounds with their arrows', and after they had 'slaine him with their woodden swordes, beat his head in peeces, and fled over the water to the maine'.78

White could do nothing more than try to make the best of a bad situation. With Manteo's help he hoped to gather some information that could be used to repair the English colonists' tattered relations with Indians in the area. The colonists looked south, to Manteo's home village on Croatoan Island. A small expedition sailed in that direction on the thirtieth, looking for 'some newes of our fifteene men, but especially to learne the disposition of the people of the Countrey towards us, and to renew our olde friendshippe with them'.79

The landing at Croatoan could not have inspired much confidence. The Indians, White wrote, at first appeared belligerent. When they saw the Englishmen advance with their matchlocks lit, they turned and fled. The Croatoans failed to recognise Manteo, who came ashore with the English. Only when he 'called to them in their owne language' did they stop, tossing aside their weapons, greeting the colonists, and ' embracing and entertaining us friendly, desiring us not to gather or spill any of their corne, for they had but little.80

It is an immensely revealing admission. That the Croatoans initially fled from armed Englishmen, and then asked those colonists not to take their food, suggests the lengths Lane was forced to travel to feed his colonists. More importantly, that the Croatoans failed to recognise Manteo, 'who had his mother, and many of his kinred dwelling in that Island', suggests that he had adopted enough of English material culture as to appear utterly English to his relations on Croatoan Island. To the Croatoans, Manteo no longer seemed like one of them. He had become an outsider, a stranger.81

After this initial fright, the Croatoans did their best to make the English feel welcome. They provided a feast for White's company, and treated the colonists with courtesy. Still, pervasive in the only surviving account, is a sense that the Croatoans would much rather have had the English leave them alone. Nothing good had come from contact with them. The Croatoans, White wrote, in another extraordinarily revealing example, 'desired us earnestly, that there might be some token or badge given them of us, whereby one might know them to be our friendes, when we met them any where out of the Towne or Island'. For want of such a badge, the Indians told White, 'divers of them were hurt the yeere before, beeing founde out of the Island by Master Lane his Companie'.82

If the English responded to this request, White said nothing about it. More interested in how Indians were willing to treat Englishmen, than in how the English had mistreated Indians in the past, White learned that Howe had been killed 'by the remnant of Winginoe's men, dwelling then [p. 163] at Dasamonguepunke, with whom Winchese kept conipanie'. He learned likewise that hostile Indians had wiped out Grenville's small party. White asked the Croatoans to assure the people of 'Secota, Aquascogoc & Pomiock' that the English 'would willingly receave them againe, and that the unfriendly dealings past on both partes, should be utterly forgiven and forgotten'. The 'chiefe men' of Croatoan told White that they would see what they could do, perhaps aware that White was in no position to 'receave' anyone under English protection, and that he had no power to demand anything from Indians in the region. The Outer Banks were a place much more anti-English in 1587 than they had been two years before.83

The English departed Croatoan and sailed back to Roanoke. There White waited for 'the coming of the Weroanses of Pomiocke, Aquascoquos, Secota, and Dasamonguepunke'. Hearing nothing after one week, White decided to 'differre the revenging [of the Roanokes] no longer'. They must be made to pay for killing Howe. He ordered an attack on Wanchese and his followers at Dasemunkepeuc. Manteo accompanied the English force, serving, White wrote, as 'our guide to the place where those Savages dwelt'.84

Led by Manteo the English hoped 'to acquite their evill doing towards us'. They crossed the sound at night and marched overland to Dasemunkepeuc. It still was dark, White wrote, but 'having espied their fire, and some sitting about it, we presently sette on them'. The Indians were surprised. Some of the 'miserable soules' fled into the surrounding reeds in search of cover. Several Indians were shot. Only then did the attackers learn that they 'were deceaved, for those Savages were our friendes, and were come from Croatoan'. They had crossed to the mainland to harvest the crops left behind by the Roanokes, who had fled farther into the interior after the death of Howe.85 Manteo, who led the English into battle, and 'behaved himselfe toward us as a most faithful English man', had failed to recognise his own people around the fire at Dasemunkepeuc. The 'mistaking of these Savages', White wrote, 'somewhat grieved Manteo'. He accidentally had killed his own people. Still, he managed somehow to blame the victims. Manteo 'imputed their harme to their owne follie', White continued,'saying to them, that if their Weroans had kept their promise in coming to the Governor at the day appointed, they had not known that mischance'. If only they had played by English rules, as he had.86

One wonders if Manteo considered, even for a moment, who he was. An Indian from Croatoan? An Englishman? John White did not dwell on Manteo's feelings, so we will never know. But the colony's governor did offer at least one answer to these questions a few days after the attack, though not without revealing the tremendous ambiguity of Manteo's position in the Anglo-American world. On the thirteenth of August, White wrote, 'our Savage Manteo, by the commandement of Sir Walter Ralegh, was christened in Roanoak, and called Lord therof, and of Dasamongueponke, in reward for his faithful service'.87


[p. 164] White left the outpost on Roanoke Island on the 27th of August, homeward bound for England 'for the better and sooner obtaining of supplies, and other necessaries' for the settlement. He left behind his daughter, his son-in-law, and his granddaughter, Virginia Dare, the first English child born in America.88 Circumstances would not allow him to return until 1590, three years later. The smoke he saw arising from Roanoke Island as he finally approached put he and his men 'in good hope that some of the Colony were there expecting my returne out of England'.89

After three years, however, White found Roanoke Island abandoned. On a tree near the site of the settlement, White found carved the letters 'CRO'. The sign of distress that he and the settlers had agreed upon, a Maltese cross, was nowhere to be seen, so White believed that the colonists did not leave in haste or in danger. Near the entrance to the fort, White found a post with the word 'CROATOAN' carved 'in fayre Capitall letters'.90

White never doubted that the colonists had moved safely to Croatoan Island, 'the place Manteo was borne, and the Sativages of the Iland our friends'. The rifling of the goods he had left behind, and which the colonists had buried, White attributed to the 'Savages our enemies at Dasamongwepuk, who had watched the departure of our men to Croatoan'.91 If only White could sail the short distance down the Outer Banks to Croatoan, he believed he would find the colonists settled there under the protection of Manteo. Storms and leaky ships, however, along with the crewmembers' desire for Spanish prizes, once again would sabotage White's plans. He returned to England in 1590, broken-hearted and reluctant, without learning the fate of his fellow colonists. The men and women he left behind became the famous Lost Colonists of American myth and memory.

The story of the early Anglo-Indian exchange, of which Manteo's story is but a small part, was not simply one of conquest, as the ultimate failure of Ralegh's colonizing ventures makes clear. While English colonists two decades later would plant 'Jamestown' in Virginia, and the Pilgrims would settle 'Plymouth', the colonists Ralegh sent explored 'Roanoac', 'Dasamunkepeuc', 'Aquascogoc', and 'Choanoac'. The land, was never enough theirs to bother naming. The importance of this point should not be underestimated. Because the English failed in their efforts to plant colonies at Roanoke, historians can free themselves from the teleological fallacy that views all Indian-white relations in terms of the ultimate demise of native peoples. At Roanoke Island an intercultural encounter took place in which natives and newcomers learned difficult lessons about each other in an arena where neither was dominant. Indians responded to the newcomers in a variety of ways, as they creatively sought to cope with the rending changes English settlement produced.

Indians took interest in these newcomers, seeking to incorporate them into their conceptual universe. Manteo's story reveals for us that the history [p. 165] of Indians during the early contact period most properly is a transatlantic one, something too few historians have recognised. Even as the 'Lost Colonists' abandoned Roanoke Island for the protection Maiiteo might provide at Croatoan, they demonstrated that Indian allies would play an essential role in Ralegh's nascent American empire.

Manteo fulfilled the benevolent expectations of Ralegh and his circle at Durham House. These men believed that Indians could abandon their savagery and become civil, that they could learn enough of the English and their way of life to become Christian. They believed that Indians would progress from their primitive origins and approach the standard of civility set by Elizabethan gentlemen. Manteo had done all these things, occupying a unique, and ultimately very lonely place, in the Anglo-American, Christian, New World Empire that these Englishmen hoped to create in America. Manteo could comprehend the war songs of rival Indians, and behave like an Englishman; he could speak Algonquin but understand the significance of English baptism. He had crossed an important line. Yet Manteo must have found this a narrow world, bound in an undefined space between what he once had been and what the English wanted him to become. In a poorly-defined colonial world where an Indian could behave as 'a most faithful English man' and kill nasty savages, where Manteo could serve as Ralegh's 'Lord of Roanoke' while remaining a 'savage', where did Manteo fit? Indeed, who was Manteo?

At times and in places, Manteo could be viewed as a savage and almost an Englishman. His would-be colonial overlords saw in him both what they hoped and believed Indians might become, and what they feared Indians might remain. His was indeed a world too narrow. The tragedy of his life is that the paths he followed back and forth across the Atlantic led through so much promise to a dead end.

Ralegh, the Hakluyts, Harriot and White all believed that English settlement in America could largely be a peaceful enterprise. As Harriot wrote, 'by carefulnesse of our selves, neede nothing at all to be feared'.92 They did not reckon upon the havoc their arrival would wreak in native communities. They could not anticipate the devastating consequences of disease, or the coincidence of their arrival and drought-like conditions on the Outer Banks. They did not anticipate English pressure on Algonquian subsistence resources and the emerging belief among Indians in the region that the English were the source of their community's problems. Nor did they recognise the ultimate incompatibility of metropolitan hopes with the realities of the Anglo-American frontier, as the soldiers sent to do the work of colonising seldom shared the philanthropic beliefs of Hakluyt and Harriot. Had all gone according to plan, the space Manteo occupied, between Indians and Englishmen, between the frontier and the metropolis, would have remained most treacherous. As it was, the fragile middle ground that emerged as natives and newcomers exchanged goods along Hatorask Island in 1584 rapidly disappeared, leaving little room for people in the middle - people like Manteo.

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[p. 167]

32 Quinn, Roanoke Voyages, 176-177, 201.

33 Ibid., 189. Previous historians of the Roanoke ventures, with little direct evidence to rely upon, have had little to say about Wanchese's abandonment of the English. Kupperman (Roanoke, 83) mentions only that Waiichese 'was strongly urging Pemisapan/Wingina to move against the settlement by 1586; Stick (RoanokeIsland, 132-133), suggests that possible close ties to Wingina influenced Wanchese's decision to rapidly abandon the English. Quinn (Set Fair for Roanoke, 115) suggests that Wanchese 'became hostile to his former hosts (or captors, as he may have come to regard them) some time after August 1585'. The voyage to Roanoke Island in July, for which Wanchese would have been the logical choice as interpreter, would have provided him with an opportunity to slip away from Ralegh's party.

34 Quinn, Roanoke Voyages, 189-190.

35 Ibid., 190.

36 Hutton, America 1585, plates 36-42. Quinn suggests that Manteo provided much of the detailed information that appears on a sketch map drawn by one member of the expedition. See Quinn, Roanoke Voyages, 216. This expedition also engaged in the first English acts of hostility toward the natives. On the sixteenth, Amadas returned to the village of Aquascogoc to demand the return of a silver cup, allegedly stolen by the Indians from the English. When the Indians fled from Amadas, he burned their village and crops. It is likely that Manteo remained with the main party, and that he did not directly witness the attack. See Quinn, Roanoke Voyages, 191.

37 Quinn, Roanoke Voyages, 191-192.

38 Ibid., 378-380. On the disease, see Peter B. Mires, 'Contact and Contagion: The Roanoke [p. 168] Colony and Influenza', Historical Archaeology 28/3 (1994) 30-38 and, more generally, Alfred Crosby, 'Virgin-Soil Epidemics as a Factor in the Aboriginal Depopulation in America', William and Mary Quarterly 23 (April 1976) 289-299.

39 Crosby, 'Virgin-Soil Epidemics', 289-299.

40 On this point see Karen Ordahl Kupperman, 'English Perceptions of Treachery, 15831640', The Historical Journal 20 (1977) 263-287.

41 Quinn, Set Fair for Roanoke, 232-233.

42 Quinn, Roanoke Voyages, 275.

43 Ibid., 379-380.

44 Ibid., 276, 278.

45 Ibid., 378.

46 Ibid., 377-378. Recent dendrochronological research has confirmed Harriot's observation of drought conditions at Roanoke. See David W. Stahle et al., 'The Lost Colony and Jamestown Droughts', Science 280 (1998) 564-567.

47 Quinn, Roanoke Voyages, 425 and Colin G. Calloway, New Worldsfor All: Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early America (Baltimore 1997) chapter 2.

48 Quinn, Roanoke Voyages, 376-377.

49 Ibid., 377.

50 Ibid., 265; Rountree, Powhatan Indians, 80. On the significance of the name change, see Kupperman, Roanoke, 76, and Durant, Ralegh, 71-72.

51 Quinn, Roanoke Voyages, 893-894.

52 Ibid., 265-266. Lane's account was written in part to justify his decision to evacuate Roanoke Island in 1586 and, in effect, to abandon the colony Sir Walter Ralegh had charged him with governing.

53 Ibid., 265-266; Michael L. Oberg, 'Indians and Englishmen at the First Roanoke Colony: A Note on Pemisapan's Conspiracy, 1585-1586', American Indian Culture and Research Journal 18/2 (1994) 80.

54 Quinn, Roanoke Voyages, 259, 277.

55 The Weapemeocs occupied territory along the northern sliore of the Albemarle Sound. The Moratucs occupied land along both sides of the Roanoke River. See Oberg, Dominion and Civility, 32.

56 Quinn, Roanoke Voyages, 265-266; Oberg,'Indians and Englishmen',80-81.

57 Quinn, Roanoke Voyages, 259, 261-263.

58 In his account Lane refers to the Roanoke River as 'the River Moratico'. Quinn, Roanoke Voyages, 261-264.

59 Ibid., 268.

60 Ibid., 266, 264.

61 Ibid., 270-271.

62 Ibid., 271.

63 Ibid., 276-277.

64 Ibid., 277.

65 Ibid., 277-278

66 Ibid., 275.

67 Ibid., 280-281.

68 Ibid., 287-288; Oberg, Dominion and Civility, 44-45.

69 The quote is from an address given by Lindsay C. Warren, in Virginia Dare Day: Annual Celebration by the Roanoke Colony Memorial Association (Raleigh,NC 1926) 6; on these first lost colonists, see Quinn, Roanoke Voyages, 306 and Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia (New York 1975) 41-42.

70 Oberg, Dominion and Civility, chapter 1; Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom, 3-43.

71 Hulton, America 1585, plates 63-69, 72-76.

72 Ibid., 130, figure 28.

73 Oberg, Dominion and Civility, 18-22. My understanding of this issue has been informed by J.H. Rowe, 'Ethnography and Ethnology in the Sixteenth Century', Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers 30 (1964); Margaret T. Hodgen, Early Anthropology in the Sixteenth and [p. 169] Seventeenth Century (Philadelphia 1964); J.H. Elliott, The Old World and the New, 1492-1650 (Cambridge 1970).

74 Quinn, Set Fair for Roanoke, 246-247.

75 Ibid., 252, 269.

76 Quinn, Roanoke Voyages, 531.

77 Ibid., 516, 523.

78 Ibid., 524-526.

79 Ibid., 526.

80 Ibid., 526.

81 Ibid., 526.

82 Ibid., 526-527.

83 Ibid., 527.

84 Ibid., 529-530.

85 Ibid., 530.

86 Ibid., 531.

87 Ibid., 531.

88 Ibid., 532-535.

89 Ibid., 610.

90 Ibid., 613-614.

91 Ibid., 616.

92 Ibid., 382.

Permission to Reprint Courtesy of Michael L. Oberg and of Itinerario, European Journal of Overseas History


"Between 'Savage Man' and 'Most Faithful Englishman': Manteo and the Early Anglo-Indian Exchange, 1584-1590" by Michael L. Oberg, Volume XXIV (2000) Number 2, Itinerario, European Journal of Overseas History, Leiden University, The Netherlands.

Copyright 2001
Carolina Algonkian Project