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Marie Laguisvoise

Also Known As: "Madame Dorion; Marie Aloe Dorion Venier Toupin"
Birthplace: Near, Scott, Illinois
Death: September 03, 1850 (59-60)
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Place of Burial: Salem, Oregon
Immediate Family:

Wife of Pierre Dorion, Il; Louis Joseph Venier and Jean-Baptiste Toupin
Mother of Son Dorion; Jean-Baptiste Dorion; Paul Dorion; Marguerite Venier; François Toupin and 1 other

Occupation: Guide
Managed by: Erica Howton
Last Updated:

About Marie Dorion

"Madame" Marie Aioe Dorion Venier Toupin (ca. 1786 – September 5, 1850) was the only female member of an overland expedition sent by Pacific Fur Company to the Pacific Northwest in 1810. Like her common-law first husband, Pierre Dorion Jr., she was Métis, with her mother from the Iowa tribe and a French Canadian father. She was also known as Wihmunkewakan (Holy Rainbow), "Walks Far Woman" and Marie Laguivoise, the latter recorded in 1841 at the Willamette Mission and apparently a variation on Aiaouez, later rendered as Iowa.

NOTE FROM THE IOWA TRIBE: The source for the name "Holy Rainbow" (Wihmunkewakan) states the name refers to Pierre Dorion's FIRST wife, a Yankton Sioux woman, not Marie: "It is believed that Dorion had taken the young Iowa Indian woman for a wife about 1806, after abandoning a Yankton woman named Holy Rainbow." Marie was the second wife, not the first who was the Yankton named "Holy Rainbow." Marie was Ioway, not Yankton, and her name was not "Holy Rainbow." Wihmunkewakan is the Lakota translation of Holy Rainbow it seems, although if it is a name of a woman, it properly would have ended with -win (female suffix). We do not have documentation of what Marie's actual Ioway name was, but the Ioway language is as different from Lakota, as German is from English. It is also unclear as to the evidence for stating she was a common-law wife or a Metis. Both seem to be assumptions of some kind. Marriages between French trappers and Indian women generally were recognized and formalized, arranged and made according to Indian law through bride price to the parents of the bride, often horses or goods.

Early life

It is likely that Marie and Sacajawea knew one another. Peter Stark notes the similarities between the two women in his book Astoria: both women were originally based in the then-small settlement of St. Louis, and they were both wives of interpreters in the burgeoning Missouri fur trade.

Pacific Northwest

Her husband Pierre Dorion Jr. was hired by the Pacific Fur Company to join Wilson Price Hunt and a group on an overland expedition to the Pacific Fur Company.) were their two young boys, who were probably two and four years old. She gave birth to another child near modern North Powder, Oregon, who died several days later. After reaching Fort Astoria, Marie and her family returned with a trapping party to the Snake River area. While at trading post in January 1814, Marie Dorion learned from a scout that her husband and a small trapping party were about to be attacked by a band of Bannocks After traveling three days only with her two infant children, she found the scene of the attack. One only of the trappers, LeClarc was alive, and was moved away from the area on a horse. Despite the medical attention of Dorion, he died that evening.

There were several horses left by the Bannock warriors and were promptly taken by Marie back to the small fur trading post. However, upon reaching the post she discovered the few staff had been killed and scalped. Attempting to reach another safe fur trading station in the Pacific Northwest, one of Marie's two horses collapsed in the Blue Mountains. While waiting for spring weather, she supported her two infants for 50 days of winter weather. Marie created snare traps out of the horse manes to provide a supply of mice and squirrels for her family. She additionally smoked the horseflesh, collected frozen berries and later gathered the inner flesh of trees to avoid her family starving. Near the end of March, Marie was able to progress west, eventually reaching a Walla Walla village exhausted and short of food. The village leadership provided material support and aided her in getting back to Fort George.

Marie married twice more and had three more children. Her second husband was Louis Venier. With her third husband, Jean Toupin, she settled near Saint Louis, Oregon, on the French Prairie. It was here that she began to be known as "Madame" or "Madame Iowa". One of two eldest sons, Jean Baptiste joined the Oregon Rifles and fought in the Cayuse War.

Death and legacy

After Dorion Venier Toupin died on September 5, 1850, she was buried inside the original log Catholic church in Saint Louis. When the church burned down in 1880 and the current church built, the location of Dorion's grave was forgotten and remains unknown to this day. It was only when the church register was translated from French into English many years after the original church burned down that it was learned that Dorion had been buried there. There is no record of why she received this honor instead of being buried in the nearby cemetery, but church burial requires special dispensation and may have indicated that Dorion was especially devout.

Among the places memorializing Dorion are Madame Dorion Memorial Park in the foothills of the Blue Mountains near Milton-Freewater, Oregon, and the Dorion Complex residence hall at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande. There is a plaque noting the place near North Powder where she likely gave birth. Hers is also one of the 158 names of people important to Oregon's history that are painted in the House and Senate chambers of the Oregon State Capitol. Her name is in the Senate chamber. St. Louis, Oregon, has a street named after her, Dorion Lane.

Oregon author Jane Kirkpatrick wrote the Tender Ties trilogy of historical novels based on Dorion's life. The individual titles in the series are A Name of Her Own, Every Fixed Star, and Hold Tight the Thread.

On May 10, 2014, the Daughters of the American Revolution held a service at Saint Louis Catholic Church dedicating a historical marker in Dorion's honor.


Marie Dorion: Plains Indian. Oregon pioneer, 1813.

Marie Laguisvoise b. 1790 near Scott, Illinois d. September 3, 1850 Willamette Valley, Oregon. Buried Parish of St. Louis, Salem, Oregon


  1. Pierre Dorion, II 1780-1814, m. c.1808
  2. Louis Joseph Venier d. c.1821, m. c.1814
  3. Jean-Baptiste Toupin 1792-1862, m. July 19, 1841

Children with husband #1

  1. Paul Dorion 1809-1889
  2. Son Dorion 1811-1812
  3. Jean-Baptiste Dorion c.1813-1848

Children with husband #2

  1. Marguerite Venier 1819-1858

Children with husband #3

  1. Francois Toupin 1824-
  2. Marianna Toupin 1827-


These are the families who came to this area early and stayed to build it step by step.

  • Step 1 MARIE DORION 1813


Who Was Marie Dorion?

"Marie Dorion was a member of the Iowa tribe.  They were of the Sioux people and came originally from Winnebago stock.  At the time Dorion (a half-breed) took Marie as his woman The Iowa (or Ioway) tribe was living in Missouri.  They were later moved to Oklahoma."

Fragments of history available from various sources and writers indicate that the Iowa’s were an unusual tribe among the Plains Indians; not only were they noted for their physical strength, but for their relationship with the white men, the French trappers, voyagers and Jesuit Missionaries.  Many of the younger women became the wives of the white intruders and the men joined the explorers as guides and companions.  The Jesuit priests, sworn to celibacy, devoted their efforts to bringing Christianity (Catholicism) and an improved standard of living.  For those Indians who embraced the Catholic faith, the Fathers of the church validated many of the tribal marriages and recognized the legitimacy of the children.

  • One hundred sixty year ago an Indian girl from an Iowa tribe took part in the overland trip of the John Jacob Astor party that left the Missouri country, bound for the mouth of the Columbia River.

  A man by the name of Hunt was in charge and he employed as a guide and interpreter, a French voyager, Pierre Dorion.  When Pierre reported for work, he had his “woman”, Marie, and their two children with him.  Hunt objected vigorously to their  joining the party, but Dorion insisted.  Marie had already overcome Pierre’s opposition.  The will of the woman in Pierre’s wigwam prevailed and Marie became a member of the party.  The cavalcade contained some 85 horses in the charge of scouts, trappers and adventurers, crossing the Great Plains without unusual incident.     The fall of 1811 found the party in the Snake River country, short of food and among unfriendly Indians.  They attempted to go down the Snake River, half the party on each side, but were turned back by the narrow canyon.  They began killing the horses for food and, by the time they reached the mouth of Burnt River, the only horse left was Marie’s.  Dorion stubbornly refused to have it slaughtered.   Somewhere near the present town of Haines, Dorion and his “wife by Indian custom” dropped behind the party while Marie gave birth to a child that lived two weeks.  After joining the rest of the party in the Grande Ronde Valley, where they were in rendezvous with friendly Indians, horses were secured and the party crossed the Blue Mountains in the winter of 1811-12.  They found welcome from the Umatilla Indians and grass for their horses on the Umatilla River.   In the spring of 1812 the party divided, some turning back to the Snake River country, others, including Dorion and his family pushed on towards Astoria.  His horse was stolen near The Dalles by Indians while he was enroute from the Umatilla Camp to Astoria with the Wilson Price Hunt party.   Dorion and his family returned to the Snake River months later with John Reed and a party of trappers.  Dorion was a hunter for the party and Marie was cook and dresser of the pelts.   It was there that tragedy struck Marie, a tragedy that was to test the unusual courage of the woman.  Snake River Indians attacked the party in the night, killing all except Marie and her two children.  They escaped by hiding in the brush.  Marie tried to save a badly wounded Frenchman by putting him on a horse and moving him away from the scene, but he died the next day.   Winter was coming and Marie and her two children faced it without companions or friends, and one horse for transportation.  Some historians have her turning west, following the timberline south of the Grande Ronde Valley.  It is likely that she was trying to return to the friendly Umatilla’s, but snow had fallen deep in the Blues, and she was compelled to camp somewhere.  She killed the horse and dried the meat.  When that was gone, she left the children wrapped in blankets, and walked through the trackless snow until she found a camp of friendly Walla Walla Indians.   From there she led a party to the rescue of her sons, the date being April 3, 1813.  Where she came out of the mountains to contact the Walla Walla’s may well be the spot now designated as the Marie Dorion Historical Park.  


  •  Leonard Dorion
  • Catholic church records transcribed and provided by Jennifer Gobin Bailes 
  • Jane Kirkpatrick. " A Name of her Own and Every Fixed Star."
  • Donald Harris 
  • All U.S. census records provided by Sarah Olsen   
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Marie Dorion's Timeline

Scott, Illinois
Missouri Territory
December 30, 1811
Oregon Territory
Missouri Territory
Oregon Territory