The Indian Office at Washington had no knowledge of the existence of the Croatan Indians until the latter part of 1888, when that office received a petition sent by fifty-four of these Indians describing themselves as "a part of the Croatan Indians living in Robeson County," and claiming to be "a remnant of White's Lost Colony," and petitioned Congress for aid. On January 11, 1889, the directors of the Ethnological Bureau in response to this petition replied:
"I beg leave to say that Croatan was in 1585 and thereabouts the name of an island and Indian village just north of Cape Hatteras, N. C. White's Colony of 120 men and women was landed on Roanoke Island just to the north in 1587, and in 1590 when White returned to revisit the colony he found no trace of it on Roanoke Island, save the name 'Croatan' carved upon a tree, which, according to a previous understanding, was interpreted to mean that the colonists had left Roanoke Island for Croatan. No actual trace of the missing colonists was ever found, but more than 100 years afterwards Lawson obtained traditional information from the Hatteras Indians which led him to believe that the colonists had been incorporated with the Indians. It was thought that traces of white blood could be discovered among the Indians, some among they having grey eyes. It is probable that the greater number of the colonists were killed; but it was quite in keeping with Indian usages that a greater or less number, especially women and children, should have been made captive and subsequently incorporated into the tribe."