Women in Ioway Life

"To the woman is consigned the labours of the household and the field; she arranges the lodge; brings wood for the fires; cooks; jerks venison and buffalo meat; dresses the skins of the animals killed in the chase; cultivates the little patch of maize, pumpkins and pulse which furnishes a great part of their provisions." 

Washington Irving, 1836.

Marie Dorion

In the decades after the Lewis and Clark expedition, several enterprises headed up the Missouri River to cash in on the commercial prospects of the new Louisiana Purchase. In 1811, prominent eastern businessman John Jacob Astor organized such a party. It was headed by a young man named Wilson Price Hunt, who hired as his interpreter a half-Yankton fur trader, Pierre DorionJr, who had an Ioway wife named Marie and two young sons, ages 2 and 4. Marie served in part as interpreter and guide.

The Astor expedition was headed to the town of Astoria on the Columbia River in what is now Oregon, settled by a ship which landed before the Hunt group arrived. Unlike the Lewis and Clark expedition, the overland Astor trip was fraught with disaster, losing twenty-five percent of its expedition force before reaching Astoria. These losses resulted from errors in judgment by Hunt which led to starvation, from the group's lack of preparation for inclement weather, and from attacks from suspicious Native American groups. After reaching Astoria, the Dorions went on a calamitous trip to trap beaver, in which the entire party except for Marie and her children were killed. Marie and the children survived the winter of 1814 alone in a house she built of deer skins and buffalo hide, a house not unlike those she had lived in all her life as an Ioway.


Irving, Washington.
1836. Chapter 62 in Astoria; Or, Anecdotes of an Enterprise Beyond The Rocky Mountains. Published online at http://www.history1700s.com/page1741.shtml.

Ruton-ye-we-ma, Rantchewaime, Strutting or Flying Pigeon, White Cloud I's Wife

Ruton-ye-we-ma, Rantchewaime,
Strutting or Flying Pigeon, White Cloud I's Wife 

Portrait made 1824 while visiting Washington, D.C.
Lithograph after an 1824 Charles Bird King painting.
Courtesy of the State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City