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.