E 7 - Marie Dorion

Madame Marie Dorion, a Native American of the Sioux Nation, gained recognition for her endurance and courage in the early American West. As the only woman on the long and difficult Wilson Price Hunt Expedition from Montreal to the wild Oregon Territory, Marie’s strength of character and courage earned her a reputation for bravery.

In 1811, explorer Wilson Hunt hired Pierre Dorion as an interpreter for an expedition seeking an overland route from Missouri to Fort Astoria, Jacob Astor’s fur-trading post on the Oregon Coast. Hunt would then assume command of the fort. Pierre and his wife, Marie, and their two young sons accompanied the expedition to the distant west.

The expedition left Missouri in April of 1811. During the tortuous 11-month journey to Oregon, the members of the expedition endured great hardships, and several of the party died of exposure and starvation.

As the only woman, Marie suffered unique difficulties caring for her two young sons and enduring many arguments with Pierre. On December 30, 1811, Marie Dorion gave birth near North Powder to a third child, who died nine days later. Marie and her family rejoined the expedition 3 days later in the Grande Ronde Valley.

In 1814, Marie Dorion’s husband Pierre was murdered in Eastern Oregon. Marie and her children escaped into the wilderness where they barely survived a long winter journey to safety. The family eventually settled in Oregon’s Willamette Valley at French Prairie, where Marie remained until her death.

When Marie Dorion died in 1850, she was buried at French Prairie, Oregon. Neighbors spoke of her as an impressive and admirable woman.