Written By: Shaman Cougar
The Roanoke Colony on Roanoke Island in Dare County in present-day North Carolina was an enterprise financed and organized by Sir Walter Raleigh in the late 16th century to establish a permanent English settlement in the Virginia Colony. Between 1585 and 1587, groups of colonists were left to make the attempt. The final group disappeared after a period of three years elapsed without supplies from England, leading to the continuing mystery known as "The Lost Colony."
As the ships anchored at Hatoraske, smoke was seen rising on Roanoke Island, giving hope that the colonists were still alive. On the morning of the 16th, Governor White, Captain Cooke, Captain Spicer, and a small company set forth in two boats for Roanoke Island. En route they saw another column of smoke rising southwest of "Kindrikers mountes." There are no mountains on this coast, except the great sand dunes. Perhaps the smoke was coming from the general area occupied today by the Nags Head dunes. They decided to investigate this latter smoke column first. It was a wearisome task that consumed the whole day and led to nothing, since no human beings were at the scene of the woods fire.
The next day, August 17, they prepared to go to Roanoke Island. Captain Spicer and six other men were drowned in the treacherous inlet when their boat capsized. Despite this unfortunate occurrence, White was able to proceed with the search. They put off again in two boats, but before they could reach the place of settlement it was so dark that they overshot their mark by a quarter of a mile. On the north end of the island they saw a light and rowed toward it. Anchoring opposite it in the darkness, they blew a trumpet and sang familiar English tunes and songs, but received no answer. In the morning they landed on the north end of the island and found only the grass and sundry rotten trees burning. From this point they went through the woods to that part of the island directly opposite Dasamonquepeuc on the mainland, west of the north end of Roanoke Island, and from there they returned by the water’s edge round about the north point of the island until they came to the place where the colony had been left by Governor White. From the description just given of White’s itinerary, this place must have been near the shore on the north end of the island on the east side, i. e., at or near the present Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. In the course of the long walk along the shore, nothing of interest was seen except footprints, which two or three natives had made in the sand during the night.
As they climbed the sandy bank toward the settlement area, they found CRO carved in Roman letters on a tree at the brow of the hill. Going from there to the site of the dwelling houses, they found all of the houses taken down and the area strongly enclosed with a palisade of tree trunks, with curtains and flankers "very Fort-like." One of the chief trees, or posts, had the bark peeled off, and carved on it in capital letters was the word CROATOAN, but without the maltese cross or sign of distress that White had asked the settlers to use in such messages in the event of enforced departure from Roanoke Island. On entering the palisade, they found iron and other heavy objects thrown about and almost overgrown with grass, signifying that the place had been abandoned for some time.
From the fort and settlement area, White proceeded again along the shore southward to the "point of the creek" (i. e., the point of Shallow Bag Bay or, as it was called in 1716, "Town Creek"), which had been fortified with "Falkons and small Ordinance" and where the small boats of the colony were habitually kept, but could find no sign of any of these things. Then, on returning to the fort and settlement area, White searched for certain chests and personal effects, which he had secretly buried in 1587. The Indians had discovered the hiding place, had rifled the chests, torn the covers off the books, and left the pictures and maps to be spoiled by rain. Considering that Gov. John White was probably John White the artist and illustrator of the expedition of 1585-86, one can imagine his feelings on seeing his maps and pictures irretrievably ruined. However, according to his own words he was cheered at the thought that, as indicated by the word CROATOAN on the palisade post, "a certain token," his daughter, granddaughter Virginia Dare, and the colonists would be found at Croatoan Island, where Manteo was born and where the Indians had been friendly to the English.
As stormy weather was brewing, White and his little group returned in haste to the harbor where their ships were at anchor. Next day they agreed to go to Croatoan Island to look for the colonists but the weather would not permit. They planned to go to the West Indies instead, where they would have taken on fresh water and ultimately have returned to Croatoan. However, the elements willed otherwise and they were blown toward the Azores. From Flores in this group, they made their way to England.
Governor White could not finance another expedition to America himself, and Raleigh, although enjoying a large income at times, spent lavishly. As late as 1602, Raleigh was still seeking in vain for his lost colony. In that year he sent out an expedition under Samuel Mace, who reached land some "40 leagues to the so-westward of Hatarask," presumably at or near Croatoan Island. Here they engaged in trading with the Indians along the coast. They probably did not look as diligently as they should have for the lost colonists, because they alleged that the weather made their intended search unsafe. On August 21, 1602, in a letter to Sir Robert Cecil, Raleigh expressed his undying faith in the overseas English Empire which he had attempted to establish, saying, “. . . I shall yet live to see it an English Nation." The memory of the Lost Roanoke Colony by that time had become an imperishable English tradition. After the establishment of the Jamestown settlement in Virginia in 1607, the Virginia colonists evidenced an almost constant interest in trying to learn from the Indians the whereabouts of the Roanoke settlers. However, the hearsay data they collected were never sufficiently concrete to be of any real assistance in locating Raleigh’s men, and the answer remains a mystery to this day.
Long ago, while people still lived in the old town of Kana’sta, on the French Broad, two strangers, who looked in no way different from other Cherokee, came into the settlement one day and made their way into the chief’s house. After the first greetings were over the chief asked them from what town they had come, thinking them from one of the western settlements, but they said, "We are of your people and our town is close at hand, but you have never seen it. Here you have wars and sickness, with enemies on every side, and after a while a stronger enemy will come to take your country from you, We are always happy, and we have come to invite you to live with us in our town over there," and they pointed toward Tsuwa`tel’da (Pilot knob). "We do not live forever, and do not always find game when we go for it, for the game belongs to Tsul`kälû’, who lives in Tsunegûñ’yï, but we have peace always and need not think of danger. We go now, but if your people will live with us let them fast seven days, and we shall come then to take them." Then they went away toward the west.
The chief called his people together into the townhouse and they held a council over the matter and decided at last to go with the strangers. They got all their property ready for moving, and then went again into the townhouse and began their fast. They fasted six days, and on the morning of the seventh, before yet the sun was high, they saw a great company coming along the trail from the west, led by the two men who had stopped with the chief. They seemed just like Cherokee from another settlement, and after a friendly meeting they took up a part of the goods to be carried, and the two parties started back together for Tsuwa`tel’da. There was one man from another town visiting at Kana’sta, and he went along with the rest.
When they came to the mountain, the two guides led the way into a cave, which opened out like a great door in the side of the rock. Inside they found an open country and a town, with houses ranged in two long rows from east to west. The mountain people lived in the houses on the south side, and they had made ready the other houses for the new comers, but even after all the people of Kana’sta, with their children and belongings, had moved in, there were still a large number of houses waiting ready for the next who might come. The mountain people told them that there was another town, of a different people, above them in the same mountain, and still farther above, at the very top, lived the Ani’-Hyûñ’tïkwälâ’skï (the Thunders).
Now all the people of Kana’sta were settled in their new homes, but the man who had only been visiting with them wanted to go back to his own friends. Some of the mountain people wanted to prevent this, but the chief said, "No, let him go if he will, and when he tells his friends they may want to come, too. There is plenty of room for all." Then he said to the man, "Go back and tell your friends that if they want to come and live with us and be always happy, there is a place here ready and waiting for them. Others of us live in Datsu’nalâsgûñ’yï and in the high mountains all around, and if they would rather go to any of them it is all the same. We see you wherever you go and are with you in all your dances, but you cannot see us unless you fast. If you want to see us, fast four days, and we will come and talk with you, and then if you want to live with us, fast again seven days, and we will come and take you." Then the chief led the man through the cave to the outside of the mountain and left him there, but when the man looked back he saw no cave, but only the solid rock.
The people of the lost settlement were never seen again, and they are still living in Tsuwa`tel’da. Strange things happen there, so that the Cherokee know the mountain is haunted and do not like to go near it. Recently a party of hunters camped there, and as they sat around their fire at suppertime they talked of the story and made rough jokes about the people of old Kana’sta. That night they were aroused from sleep by a noise as of stones thrown at them from among the trees, but when they searched they could find nobody, and were so frightened that they gathered up their guns and pouches and left the place.
Lake Anjikuni Eskimo Village
In November 1930, a fur trapper named Joe Labelle made his way on snowshoes to an Eskimo village on the shores of Lake Anjikuni in northern Canada. Labelle was familiar with the village, which he knew as a thriving fishing community of about 1200 residents. When he arrived, however, the village was deserted. The shanties were covered with snow and not a chimney showed smoke. All of the huts and storehouses were vacant. There was no sound of sled dogs to be heard. The village’s kayaks tied up on the shore of the lake. In the shanties he found meals left hanging over fires, old and moldy and seemingly abandoned as they were being cooked. He found one smoldering fire on which there was a pot of blackened stew. The men’s rifles were still in place standing by the doors. Labelle then became frightened because he knew that the men would never leave without their weapons.
He reported this discovery to the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), who investigated what Labelle had seen, and turned up some bizarre findings. The police discovered that the town’s dogs had died of hunger, chained beneath a tree and covered by a snowdrift. Also, all of the Eskimos’ food and provisions were found undisturbed in their huts. What was even more disturbing was finding that the Eskimos’ ancestral graves had been emptied, despite the frozen ground, the graves had been opened and the dead removed.
The case remains open to this day. The matter remains unsolved, and despite a search of all Canadian and worldwide inquiries, not one trace of the missing 1200 men, women and children has ever been found.
The Toronto Daily Star,
November 23, 1930
Lake Territory, Nov. 23. The Inspector for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police returned today to confirm the disappearance of an Eskimo village in the Northern Lakes region. Ten days ago, fur trapper, Joe LaBelle, contacted the RCMP to report a chilling discovery. While running a trap line, LaBelle snow-shoed out to an isolated Eskimo village on the shores of Lake Anjikuni, only to discover every inhabitant—man, woman, and child—had vanished from their huts and storehouses. “It was as if every one of them poor folk up and took off with no more than the shirts on their backs.”
Inspector Pierre Menard of the RCMP returned with his team’s findings today and confirmed the trapper’s story. The village had indeed been found abandoned under most strange circumstances. “In our search, we discovered undisturbed foodstuff, gear, and provisions but no sign of the villagers. Not a single footprint or track.” Even the Eskimos’ sled dogs were found buried under the snow, starved to death. But the most disturbing discovery of all was reported at the end: the Eskimos’ ancestral graves were found excavated and emptied.
The RCMP promises to continue the search, but for now the fate of the villagers remains a mystery.