Taming Wild Beasts


Antione de la Mothe Cadillac was a French military officer who decided to make a colony on the Detroit river.  We can find plenty of information about him in his step by step strategy for how to make the colony in a letter he wrote to his French superiors on October 18, 1700. (Michigan Voices, Grimm, pg. 17)

Cadillac went through a list of steps on how to form the colony.  At the basis of his plan he knew that the only way to go forward and establish this colony would be to make “friends” with the Native Americans.  To him the Native Americans were just another animal that you would tame, like a bird or wild beast, they were savages. Though he sought friendship with them, it was only a part of his plan for success.  He couldn’t except that the Native Americans were different from him and his kind, he wanted to change them, to be just as the French were, “civilized”.

Though Cadillac seemed to think very low of the Native Americans he saw the Native American women as objects to help him in his plan. He believed that if a Native American woman was united in marriage to a French man that the French and Indians would also be united in brotherhood.  We can see clearly that this was simply a game he wanted to play for success. You can also see how Cadillac believed he had great authority over the Native American women, as he had no problem speaking on their behalf and telling his superiors back in France who the women would prefer to marry.

Keep in mind that his discrimination was not only to the Native American women but also the European woman too.  You can see clearly in his plans that the European men were to come and establish the colony, then bring the women over to start a family.  They would also help make friendship with the Native Americans by tending to their needs as nurses.  We can see that is wasn’t completely Cadillacs fault for thinking lowly of women, sadly it was just normal for that time and age. (Michigan Voices, Grimm, pg. 17 )

In the end Cadillac’s plans fell through, this is because most young Frenchmen saw the quick profits of the fur trade much more appealing than the hard labor of farming.  This may have been an advantage to the Native Americans, due to the fact that Cadillac would not be seeking a “friendship” with them and using them any longer. (Michigan, A History of the Great Lakes State, Rubenstein and Zlewacz, pg. 34-37)

(Michigan Voices, Grimm, pg. 17)(Michigan, A History of the Great Lakes State, Rubenstein and Zlewacz, pg. 34-37)

14 thoughts on “Taming Wild Beasts

  1. His goal was not just to make friends with the Native Americans but to also let them see something great and awe worthy. He thought that having the Native Americans live in close proximity to the Frenchmen would make them see how great the French were, and they in turn would want this greatness. It was this superior thinking that caused him to believe the Native American woman would prefer the Frenchman over the “savages” they only knew before.
    He felt it would not be hard to make them civilized people if you treated them like the animals they had domesticated in the past. If a beast of any kind can be domesticated, a human savage can too. Too bad he was never domesticated.

    1. It seemed as though Cadillac and the French thought that they should be viewed in an almost godly light. Although some of the Natives may have thought that they were godly because of the items they brought over with them. The French people and their inability to adapt to the harshness of the climate should have made it obvious to the Natives that they were not gods or godly in anyway. Additionally, the way they treated the Native Americans should have pushed them away, and made it so they did not want to help the French, but they continued to do so.

  2. It fascinates me that Cadillac would even consider trying to become “friends” with the natives. If he saw them as such savages, wouldn’t he be “tainting” the French Bloodline? It is just weird, in my opinion, how he would see the natives as nothing more than animals and yet allow them to marry into his culture just for economical and political gain.
    It is definitely sickening to think of people viewing others like this, and simply trying tom use them for their own purposes. But just as sexism was more prevalent in that era, so was dehumanization.

    1. Kind of like how male slave owners would have children with slaves just to have most slaves. They would sell them off and think nothing of their bloodline they were selling. Cadillac probably figured more people better. He would only let the Native American women marry French men if they were educated in the French ways. The language, the culture, the religions.

      1. This is exactly what I was thinking, he probably just wanted to populate America, and since they would be new Americans they wouldn’t need to be full French since they were not living in France.

        1. I agree, he was just thinking about populating the new America quickly and not the long term effects of his plan. He wouldn’t live forever, so he got what he wanted while he was alive…

  3. I really appreciated your reference to “it was only a part of his plan for success. I wonder how many other plans he may have had in order to be successful. He knew how to sweet-talk his way into getting what he wanted. He did this through detailed plans and with the impression that he was the one to get things done. His settlement at Detroit had to be successful. “Cadillac had hoped to make the permanent settlement complete through the construction of churches, schools, and hospitals. He also sought to enlarge the population through intermarriage with Indians, which he was convinced would assure Indian loyalty and friendship as well.” (Blackwell, 36) Cadillac sought to use any means to increase the connections with the Native Americans, no matter what he thought of them.

    1. I agree with what is being said here. I can only imagine how many other plans Cadillac had in mind to be successful and get what he wanted. Like you said he would sweet talk his way into getting what he wanted. Some people might think Cadillac was a good man but to me he seems way to sneaky and seems kind of arrogant.

  4. I just find it confusing that Cadillac wanted ties with the Native Americans, but he didn’t want to be friends with them. He clearly just wanted to take advantage of them. He also clearly didn’t want to make ties with the Europeans either. I’m surprised the Native Americans didn’t try to assassinate Cadillac.

    1. I feel the same way! Cadillac was a very powerful French man. How would it look if he allowed his fellow French to marry savages? I don’t see how this could have worked out, as the French thought very poorly of the Native Americans. Cadillac was just a power-hungry man who would take advantage of anyone who stood in his way.

      1. Yes, he just wanted to marry them off in order to have better ties with them for his own gain as well as populating America. He didn’t care about anyone but himself and what he would get out of the whole thing.

      2. I agree with you that Cadillac was just using people to accomplish building his colony. However, in the present day when we read Cadillac’s story of course we see it as confusing and unethical because what Cadillac did would never fly now. Times have changed and I feel like people did not value the rights of men and women the same way that we do now.

  5. I agree with your blog on the aspect of seeing the savage maidens as objects, what I don’t understand is how the native americans would look at this the same way as Cadillac. And think it would cause a bond between them. Wouldn’t they feel more like frenchman were stealing their maidens and maybe even cause more of a problem? Interesting way to look at it, and nice blog.

    1. Yes, I think that it would be interesting to read an account about Cadillac and his plans from the Native Americans perspective. Did they see marrying French men as okay, or would they not have allowed it? I love trying to see things from different perspectives.

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