Detroit's Hidden Channels
The Power of French-Indigenous Families in the Eighteenth Century
Published by: Michigan State University Press
Imprint: Michigan State University Press
Sales Date: 2020-04-01
276 Pages, 0.00 x 0.00
- ISBN: 9781609176341
- Published: April 2020
French-Indigenous families were a central force in shaping Detroit’s history. Detroit’s Hidden Channels: The Power of French-Indigenous Families in the Eighteenth Century examines the role of these kinship networks in Detroit’s development as a site of singular political and economic importance in the continental interior. Situated where Anishinaabe, Wendat, Myaamia, and later French communities were established and where the system of waterways linking the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico narrowed, Detroit’s location was its primary attribute. While the French state viewed Detroit as a decaying site of illegal activities, the influence of the French-Indigenous networks grew as members diverted imperial resources to bolster an alternative configuration of power relations that crossed Indigenous and Euro-American nations. Women furthered commerce by navigating a multitude of gender norms of their nations, allowing them to defy the state that sought to control them by holding them to European ideals of womanhood. By the mid-eighteenth century, French-Indigenous families had become so powerful, incoming British traders and imperial officials courted their favor. These families would maintain that power as the British imperial presence splintered on the eve of the American Revolution.
Chapter 1. Creating the Place Between: Building Indigenous and French Communities in Early Detroit
Chapter 2. Corn Mothers, Commandantes, and Nurturing Fathers: Negotiating Place at Detroit
Chapter 3. War, Slavery, and Baptism: The Formation of the French-Indigenous Networks at Detroit
Chapter 4. Ils s’en allaient tous: Roots and Routes of the French-Indigenous Family Networks
Chapter 5. On Such Does the Fate of Empires Depend: Women of the French-Indigenous Family Networks
Chapter 6. Unveiling the Conspiracy: Women at the Heart of Pontiac’s War
Chapter 7. Bastards and Bastions: Domestic Disorder and the Changing Status of the French-Indigenous Family Networks
Appendix. Creating Community at Detroit: Witnessing the Marriage of Michel Bizaillon and Marguerite Fafard
Detroit’s Hidden Channels overflows with sharp insights and stunning revelations about gendered experience in the Great Lakes trading societies of the eighteenth century. Drawing on a vast array of sources, Marrero expertly reconstructs the intricate world of colonial Detroit, revealing this common space of Indigenous and French wives, husbands, traders, merchants, military officers, and political officials to be one of enmeshed familial relationships and layered political intrigue. Here, no single imperial power or individual representative of any crown is capable of holding sway in the face of the complex and fluid relations of kinship ties and obligations that form a dense web of relationality across the region and beyond.
— Tiya Miles, author of The Dawn of Detroit: A Chronicle of Slavery and Freedom in the City of the StraitsDetroit’s Hidden Channels is an insightful social analysis of the French-Indigenous community that evolved with Cadillac’s founding of this frontier trading center. Long subsumed by nationalistic histories about this region, Marrero’s gender analysis uncovers both the power of these interwoven kin networks and the role that Indigenous women played in forging these kin linkages that controlled the course of events. This is a must-read for early American historians and for anyone wishing to know more about the “real” history of early Detroit.
— Susan Sleeper-Smith, Professor, Department of History, Michigan State UniversityIn this meticulous and sophisticated analysis of Detroit’s founding era, Marrero offers an important rejoinder to standard imperial histories by parting the curtains for us to see, with more clarity and precision than we have before, the place of Indigenous and French women in the making of Detroit. Methodically clawing away at French and English colonial records, Indigenous sources, oral histories, and even folk songs, she exposes at every turn the scattered traces of individual women, and reveals the gender dynamics instrumental in establishing the far-ranging networks of trade and kinship that were the building blocks of empire. A masterful study.
— Sophie White, Associate Professor of American Studies, University of Notre Dame