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How did I Miss That? Debunking the Roanoke Island Myth and Selfie Awareness

Since 2009 annual archaeological digs at Roanoke Island have consistently turned up evidence of lost colonists, but they’ve yet to displace the old narratives.

The Virginian-Pilot reported on the continuing efforts of both professional archaeologists and local hobbyists in Buxton, North Carolina to debunk the old story that the English colony at Roanoke Island fell victim to merciless Indian savages.

Descriptions of the digging reminded me of James Michener’s novel, The Source, that was structured around an archaeological dig to take the roots of the modern state of Israel back to the mists of time as artifacts became persons became stories. In Buxton, the earliest artifacts are pottery and arrow points over 1,000 years old.

The archaeologists claim that nearby Hatteras Island would have been understood as “Croatoan,” the name carved in a post at the location where the English last saw the colony in 1587. The search parties from England took years and never reached Hatteras Island.


John Lawson finally visited Hatteras in 1701 and found “Indians” who had gray eyes and knew the name Walter Raleigh, who had sent the Roanoke colonists. Archaeologists found a layer of artifacts between the Indian items and the colonial ones that are plainly a mix of indigenous and Elizabethan English.

Mark Horton, an archaeologist from the University of Bristol, has found the artifact fields rich enough to dig every year since 2009. Horton works with Scott Dawson, a local historian and founder of the Croatoan Archaeological Society.

The work produced by Horton and Dawson has not yet displaced the older narrative that had the English left at Roanoke meeting a gruesome fate at the hands of the Indians. It has engaged a lively debate.

My cousin Ray Sixkiller wondered, if the assimilation theory pans out, “what will the colonists do without merciless Indian savages?”


Assimilation makes more sense to me than massacre, but what do I know? I’m watching Donald Trump putting an idea I consider cockamamie to a very public test. I say government does not run “like a business,” and that political science is a science that requires years of study and experience to practice at a high level. “Common sense” may be necessary but it’s not sufficient.

The latest breach of diplomatic customs happened at the G-20 meeting. Trump had to attend to other business during a discussion among heads of state. When the head of state must give up his or her seat, it’s customary that the most senior diplomat in the delegation sit in.

Who should take the seat between Chinese President Xi Jinping and British Prime Minister Theresa May but the First Daughter, Ivanka Trump. In the social media light up that followed, the kindest description of the First Daughter was “unqualified.”

The Washington Post ran a sample from the Twitterverse.

Nickolas Kristof said what a lot of people were thinking about the POTUS putting his offspring in that position: it looks “banana-republicky.”

Elizabeth Spiers tweeted, “The G-20 is not Take Your Daughter to Work day.”

“What’s your point? Cousin Ray was really puzzled. “Are you claiming everybody needs to know some history?”

Well, yes.


The Charlottesville, Virginia City Council is the latest elected body instructed by history to withdraw from glorifying treason when it voted to remove a statute honoring the head of the army of traitors, Robert E. Lee.

Failing to support treason drew the ire of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan from Pelham, North Carolina. The Washington Post reported that approximately 30 Klansmen showed up to protest, some armed with handguns. Their remarks were drowned out by approximately 1,000 counter protestors who we could assume know the history of the KKK.


The New York Times reported that the Vatican bureaucracy, speaking for the Roman Catholic Church, has taken a hard line on the pressing metaphysical issue whether Mass can be celebrated with gluten free bread.

Persons with celiac disease will have to accept some very uncomfortable symptoms to participate in the symbolic cannibalism of Communion. Of course, some priests have found celibacy very uncomfortable and the argument that the Church existed for over 1,000 years before the celibacy rule became God’s will has not moved the Vatican to allow physical intimacy with consenting adult women.

The numbers of priests all around the world resorting to physical intimacy with children is claimed to be coincidental, a worldwide coincidence. Sacrificing the health of Catholics with celiac disease is also a hoary tradition. It dates from 2003, when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith approved very low gluten bread for transubstantiation but not gluten free bread.

Cousin Ray asked a tacky question about transubstantiation. “What difference does it make what kind of bread you start with since it’s supposed to be meat when you consume it?”

His question exceeds my understanding of the barbaric customs the colonists brought to the Americas.


Human beings and sharks wrestled to a split decision this week.

KRON reported that Steve Lawson survived an attack by a great white shark while kayaking in the Pacific Ocean near Santa Cruz, California. Lawson was not hurt but his kayak was half-eaten.

KXAN reported that Tim McClellen won the 55th Annual Texas City Jaycees Tackle Time Fishing Tournament when he landed a 1,033-pound hammerhead shark. The previous hammerhead record was 871 pounds in 1980, also caught in the Gulf of Mexico.


Another case of jeopardy in salt water this week did not involve sharks. The Panama City News Herald reported that Roberta Ursrey’s two young sons got themselves stranded offshore in a rip current while swimming at the Panama City Beach.

Ursrey, her mother, her husband, her nephews—the entire family attempted to rescue the boys and wound up trapped in the same current in about 15 feet of water. After all the rescues were attempted, nine people were hung in the rip current instead of two.

Unrelated bystanders on the beach, however, were unwilling to watch the family drown. Jessica Simmons told the News Herald that she was saying to herself, “These people are not drowning today. It’s not happening.”

She paddled out on a boogie board while her husband and others organized a human chain, which consisted of 80 strangers, some of whom could not swim and so took the anchor position in shallow water.

Simmons used the boogie board to get people to the end of the human chain, where they were pulled to safety. One nephew came out with a broken hand and the grandmother had a heart attack during the rescue. Her heart stopped in the ambulance but they brought her back and she is expected to recover.


KRISTV reported that a Corpus Christi, Texas ATM machine was disgorging an unusual message along with cash. A technician working on the machine managed to get himself locked inside.

He wrote on several strips of paper, “Please help. I’m stuck in here and I don’t have my phone. Please call my boss at (number).”

Each time a customer withdrew cash, the trapped man poked one of the messages out through the receipt slot. It took a long time for somebody to take it seriously, but eventually he was released with no harm except to his dignity.

“Ain’t technology wonderful?,” Cousin Ray observed.


Every now and then somebody will put click bait on the web composed of selfies taken seconds before deaths that put the departed in competition for a Darwin Award. It was only a matter of time before this phenomenon would attract academic interest.

The Telegraph summarized a study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Indraprastha Institute of Information in Delhi, India with a splendid title that only tips off its academic origins with the colon academic papers have in the title.

Me, Myself and My Killfile: Characterizing and Preventing Selfie Deaths looked at fatalities worldwide in an 18-month period between March 2014 and September 2016. Surprisingly, over 60 percent of deaths were in one country and that country was not the U.S.

The land of the free and home of the careless came in third with 8 deaths, but retained some bragging rights by beating out Russia (6) and China (4). Pakistan (9) edged out the U.S. but the hands down/smartphone up winner was India, with 76 casualties from, to put it kindly, lack of situational awareness.

The only other countries with more than one were The Philippines (4), Spain (3), and Indonesia, Portugal, Peru, and Turkey with two each. Mumbai continues to be a hot spot with three similar selfie deaths since the study ended. People like to pose for a selfie on a coastal promenade with a massive wave rolling in the background.

These scholars are not the first to visit Darwin Award territory. Three U.S. national parks have books in print about visitor deaths. The tourist herd has been thinned by burning in Yellowstone hot springs, Yosemite climbing mishaps, and, of course, falls into the Grand Canyon.

Cousin Ray assured me there’s no truth to the rumor that the National Park Service is dealing with overcrowding by issuing smartphones and selfie sticks near grizzly bear habitat.