• Kerry Chaput

Marie Dorian, Pioneer and Survivalist


We've all heard stories of the Oregon Trail, but Marie Dorian's treks over this infamous route are truly spectacular.


Born in 1786, Marie was both French-Canadian and Native American (part of the Iowa Tribe). When Marie was twenty-one, her husband Pierre was hired by John Jacob Astor to accompany them as a translator on the Astoria Expedition. Eight months pregnant with her third child, Marie resisted Pierre's request, and he beat her for her insolence. She escaped to the nearby woods with her two boys to protect them from Pierre. There are some reports that Marie fought back with an iron pan.



Marie eventually agreed to accompany her husband. The only woman among sixty-two other men, very pregnant Marie walked the majority of the 3,000 mile trek with her three-year-old strapped to her back, while the men used the available horses.

Food and water was scarce and men resorted to boiling their leather moccasins for food.


In the deep January snow of the Eastern Oregon Mountains, Marie gave birth alone. The men demanded that her and the new baby resume travel immediately. Little lark sadly only lived six days and Marie had to bury the baby in an unmarked grave along the trail.


Marie was warned by friends in a Native community of an ambush scheduled on her group. Marie stole one of the company's horses and enough food and water to keep her and the boys alive, spending three days in the snowy forest for protection. When she returned to camp, all sixty-two men had been murdered.


Marie had no choice but to travel through the knee-deep snow with her sons. They walked 250 miles in fifty-three days through the Blue Mountains, pushing through blizzards, injuries, extreme hunger, and bleeding feet. She butchered her horse and caught mice to keep them alive.


Desperate, Marie made an impossible choice. She burrowed a hole in the snow, wrapped her children in buffalo fur, and left to get help.


A Walla Walla tribe found Marie partially snow blind. They took her in and sent members of their tribe to rescue the boys.


Marie spent the next few years in Washington Territory, where she worked for the Army and cared for the sick. She married twice more and birthed three more children. They settled in the French Prairie area of the Willamette Valley where she cared for the abandoned children who arrived in Oregon.


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