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A. Native people killed the colonists on Roanoke Island.
B. The colonists were all killed on Roanoke Island by disease. C. Their town was washed away by a hurricane, and the people drowned.
D. They left Roanoke Island and went to live in some other place.
A. When John White got back to Roanoke Island in 1590 he did not find any bones or bodies or any signs of fighting. Bones last a long time. If Native people had killed the colonists, there would probably have been some remains or other signs of violence. We can guess that the colonists were not killed on Roanoke Island.
B. When the English first came to "Verginia" they brought diseases with them, such as flu and smallpox, that were new to the Native communities. They had no immunity against them and many died very quickly. Letters written by the colonists tell us that the English remained healthy. And remember, no bones or bodies or graves were found. We can guess that the colonists did not all die of disease.
C. When John White got back to the Island he found that the houses were gone, but a high fence, called a palisade, had been built around the town. If a hurricane had blown away the house and drowned the people, would the fence still be standing? Probably not. We can guess that it wasn’t a hurricane.
D. The word “Croatoan” carved on a fence post has puzzled historians for a long time. We know that Croatoan meant two things: the name of a friendly Native people, and the name of the island where they lived. When John White returned to find his colonists gone from Roanoke he thought they might have gone to Croatoan Island (modern-day Hatteras Island) because the word was carved on the fence post. John White was never able to go to Croatoan to find out. Modern searchers have not yet found anything that shows that the colonists were there either. We just don’t know why the colonists carved that word.
Remember that John White’s group was supposed to build their town near the Chesapeake Bay, not on Roanoke Island. It is possible that they left Roanoke and went to the Chesapeake, using the wood from their houses to build a boat. That might explain why the people, their houses, and their equipment were all gone when White got back. Is there any evidence?
Almost twenty years later, a different group of English sailed to the Chesapeake and started a settlement. It was called Jamestown and one of its leaders was Captain John Smith. The Native king of the area, Powhatan, told Captain Smith that the Roanoke colonists had been in his land! He claimed that he had killed them all to discourage other English from coming to the New World and taking Native peoples’ land. Was this story true? Captain Smith believed it and some historians today think it happened but, again, there is no proof.