A Woman to Know: Marie Dorion

Marie Dorion suffered through two excruciatingly challenging journeys — and did it with two young children in tow. — historian Gregory Shine

(image via Library of Congress)


In her trek with Lewis and Clark, Sacajawea became the first woman to cross the North American continent. But just six years later, Marie Dorion followed in Sacajawea's footsteps, adding another 1,000 miles to the journey, leading two children and a pack of fur trappers through the snowy — six months into a new prgenancy.

Marie married fur trapper Pierre Dorion at the turn of the century, leaving the Sioux Nation to live with him in St. Louis and act as his tribe interpreter. When the Astor family promised a hefty sum to any expedition that could establish outpost in the yet-unsettled Oregon wilderness, the Dorions banded together a motley crew of settlers. Within weeks of the 1811 trip, however, all the men died — from illness, from a Shoshone tribe attack, from exhaustion and from cold.

But Marie continued walking with her children. Just 250 miles away from the destination, she gave birth to her third child. Alone. On the shore of Powder River in Oregon. When the tired family finally reached safety to settle Astoria, the new town in Oregon, men back East wondered at Marie's feat of survival. They called her "the Madonna of the Oregon Trail."

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