HISTORY BEHIND THE NAME
A sailing vessel of sixteenth-century Dubrovnik
The name “Croatoan” was chosen to pay tribute to the legendary link between Croatia and North America (Turtle Island). Legends circulating in Croatia maintain that one or several Croatian ships that sailed in the sixteenth century sunk off the hazardous coast of what is now North Carolina, and that the survivors intermarried with the local Indigenous community which in time acquired the name “Croatoan”.
In 1584 an English expedition encountered the village of Croatoan, led by Chief Manteo (Cr. Mateo or Mate) on Croatoan Island (now known as Hatteras Island) located off North Carolina, and found children with “very fine auburn, and chestnut-coloured hair.”
Historians were unable to solve the mystery of the origin of the children, nor the similarity between some Indigenous words such as “Potomac” and the Croatian word “Potomak” (En. Descendant), nor the resemblance between the names “Croatan or Croatoan” and the Latin term for “Hrvat” – “Croata”. The explanation that some Dubrovnik sailors were shipwrecked near Hatteras Island is plausible.
However, in the absence of conclusive historical evidence it remains a mystery and a legend. A lasting legendary link nonetheless.