Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Madame Dorion

Madame Dorion –by Jerome Peltier

Nonfiction / Biography
Publisher: Ye Galleon Press, Fairfield, Washington
43 Pages
Footnotes / Endnotes: Yes
Illustrations: Yes, black ink drawings
Suitable for eReaders: Yes (but not available)
5 Stars

Marie "Madame" Dorion was the second known woman to cross the Great Divide into the Oregon Territory, following in the footsteps, more or less, of Sacajawea. Except Marie had two children, and gave birth to a third on the trip.

Not a great deal is known about this woman, other than she was a member of the Iowa Indian Tribe, and married to a French Canadian, Pierre Dorian, who spoke a few Indian languages, and when hired by the Hunt expedition to guide and interpret took his wife and two young sons along.

Marie did not slow the party down, even though her sons were 4 and 2 years old, and the 2 year old had to be carried. She carried her child, and her share of the packs and chores. She had a third baby along the way, who lived 9 days, and was buried near the Powder River in Oregon.

When Pierre was killed, she was offered passage back to her homeland, but refused, and stayed in the Oregon country where she remarried. There are church records of her being in the Okanagan country, mentions of her visiting Narcissa Whitman, and settling near what is now known as Salem, Oregon.

Although there are no known records of what all she did, she must have been a stellar woman to have not only been given the honorific of "Madame" but when she died, she was buried under the steeple of her church, rather than in the graveyard with everyone else.

When she married John Toupin in the Catholic Church, all her children became "legitimized" according to the Church, and her descendants are still found today, usually with the last name of Turpin.

I don't know how accurate this booklet is, but I'm guessing fairly accurate. Written in 1980, there is very possibly more information available now, through church records that were either not available or not known at the time of this writing. Mr. Peltier treats the Indians as human, not savages.  If you can find a copy, and are interested in the history of the Oregon Country, I recommend it.

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