Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac is the type of man who can get things done and is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to see his plans come to fruition. He has a plan for everything and in this case, he is trying to create a settlement on the Detroit River to derail British trade and protect the French fur trade. This blog post will discuss the plans that Cadillac had for the colony and how very detailed his plans were. I will also discuss how he planned to become allies with the Native Americans to better further his interests around the Detroit River.
In his statements documented in Michigan Voices, Cadillac talks in a very condescending manner about the Native Americans. The Native Americans had been settled in that land for some time, yet I interpreted this reading as him feelings that his settlement should take precedence over the Native American’s. He also believes they are weak and that the French can easily overtake them and their lands if they keep moving closer to them and becoming friends with them. In his letter back to France, he states that: “. . . when we are the neighbors of the tribe and are within easy reach of them, they will be kept in awe.”. Cadillac thinks that by creating a settlement on the Detroit River that the Native Americans will be in awe and will want to become allies with them. Cadillac has grand plans for his settlement on the Detroit River, with the first step being bringing a hundred men to the area first to settle and then moving up from there.
I believe that Cadillac wrote these words because he wanted the French to believe in him and if he had a well detailed plan then the king would be more willing to listen and help him. I think he wanted to bring men to the area first to intimidate the Native Americans that were settled around the area. By suggesting that a year after the first settlers arrive (the first settlers being 50 soldiers and 50 Canadians – according to his plan) the king send 20-30 families as well as 200 men who were picked by the king himself and skilled in various trades, I think Cadillac is trying to drive out the Native Americans with the new trades from other countries – but he would still like an alliance with them because he states that after the “savage maidens” are instructed in proper religion and know the French language, they will choose to be with Frenchmen instead of Native American men. Another notion to his wanting an alliance is suggesting creating a hospital for “sick or infirm savages, for there is nothing more urgent for gaining their friendship than the care taken of them in their illness.” I think that he believes in tricking the Native Americans to thinking he wants to be their ally when what he really wants is to overtake their lands.
I think that what this tells us about the gender norms for Europeans versus Native Americans is that Europeans think men are superior and should therefore be the first to settle in the new area. Europeans believe men should be the more responsible individuals and be in control of any skilled trades and any of the more “difficult” tasks of the settlement. This excerpt doesn’t necessarily give many indications about gender norms for Native Americans that I was able to pick up on, but I would say that the men are expected to go out and hunt for food for their families and the women are supposed to stay back at the camps and cook and watch after the children. Cadillac sounds as though he is suggesting that the Native American women aren’t intelligent enough to marry the Frenchmen because they don’t speak their language or know and practice their religion, and that once they can do both of those things they will be less “savage” and more suited for marriage to the French.
The Native Americans are being used as political pawns in this excerpt in a few ways. Cadillac is suggesting marrying the Native American women to increase alliances and create a friendship with the Native American peoples. This was done in a malicious manner to help gain control of the land and resources without using force against the Native Americans. The Frenchmen that Cadillac was speaking of wanted nothing to do with the Native Americans and simply were after their land. Cadillac wanted to use the Native Americans to create a larger colony and by gaining their trust he could do just that.
I believe that this piece from the book Michigan Voices is very important regarding the history of our great state and speaks volumes about the types of people the French were when they were trying to settle in Michigan. By using the Native Americans as pawns, Cadillac was hoping to create a large settlement on the Detroit River and had a very detailed plan on how he was going to go about doing so. While I believe his plan was quite malicious, I find it to be slightly more satisfactory than the alternative plan – which would be to use force against the Native Americans to get them to move off their land and find a new area to settle. Cadillac believed the women of the Native American tribes could be taught the language of the Europeans and adopt their religion so they would be more suitable wives for the French and help them in their plan to gain more of the Native American lands by creating friendships. As class goes on, I look forward to learning more about how this worked out and the types of barriers the Native Americans had to overcome when new countries were coming to settle in Michigan.