I’m really tempted to title my Joseph Deraque talk “Everything I Don’t Know about Joseph Deraque.” Because, people, the list of things I don’t know is substantial and growing. Was he the Jeuseph DuRoche from Vincennes? Is he related to the Durochers over along the Mississippi? Why did he and Richard Finnelson change their minds about moving the Indians against Nashville? How many kids did he have? When was he born? When did he die? Did he and Elizabeth really ever own Granny Rat’s tavern?
I do have two things I want to be sure to do during my talk. One is to try to put Timothy, Elizabeth, and Joseph in some kind of context, just to explain that the French way of living in the world was very different than the English/American and that it’s not surprising that a.) Timothy would have had a church wife and a Nashville wife, because French traders worked by kinship ties and the way to get kinship ties with a group is to become a part of a woman’s household; b.) that there are rumors that Joseph and Elizabeth were both half-Indian, even though the more I dig into it, the less likely this seems to be true as we understand the term. It just doesn’t preclude this being a judgement about their behavior and ease in living in non-English/American approved ways. Just keep in mind that Sam Houston was a Cherokee Indian, straight up, beyond dispute, at the time and now we couch it in terms like “adopted,” because we can’t understand a racial or ethnic identity that doesn’t have some genetic component.
The other is to warm people away from using my beloved Provine Papers as any kind of fact. Because, damn, half of figuring out what we honestly don’t know is figuring out if the only source for it is Provine. If the only source for it is Provine, you can pretty much guarantee it’s going to be wrong.