All western schoolchildren have heard of Sacagawea, and even more know the story of Pocahontas either from class or the Disney movie. But who was the great – and comparatively unknown – Marie Dorion? No less than one of the most resilient, courageous, and frankly badass women in history. Dorion (1786 – 1850) was the daughter of a French Canadian father and a Native American mother. A seasoned survivalist, she would go on to become the only female member of John Jacob Astor’s legendary Astoria expedition, whose goal was to establish the first trading post at the mouth of the Columbia.
Along with her husband, Pierre Dorion, and a band of trappers, Marie traversed mountains, plains, and raging rivers – all with her small children in tow. Stranded after her spouse and the other members of her party were killed and scalped, Marie and her two young sons set out against all odds across a glacial winter landscape. It was a brutal journey that has more than earned its place in the epic-odyssey canon.
Today, the story of Marie Dorion and the Astoria expedition, or the story of Marie Dorion and John Jacob Astor, is the stuff of towering and underappreciated history. Read on to find out more.