Call of the Prairie
The First Dupree in South Dakota
By Calvin Dupree and
Suzanne (BJ) Dupree-Wade
Fredrick Dupuis and wife Good Elk Woman, with Grandson Pete Dupuis
Good Elk Woman had a son from a previous marriage that Fred adopted and his name was Chief Henry Makes Room Junior.
Fredrick Dupuis came from Longueil, Quebec to Kaskaskia, Illinois and from there to the Cheyenne River South Dakota area. One Dupuis brother, Pierre (known as Peter) went on up into Montana where he married an Assiniboin Tetuwan (Sioux) woman. A French-Canadian, Fred Dupuis arrived at Fort Pierre in 1838, and was an employee of the American Fur Company under Pierre Choteau Jr.
Letters from the winter of 1861 were written to Charles Primeau from Fred Dupuis by MC Rousseau at the mouth of Cherry Creek. The letters are concerned with reports of the Indian Bands, and the number of buffalo robes Fred was sending in, and a list of the materials he needed for trading and maintaining his small outpost.The trader (Fred) is concerned in the letters, that the buffalo are becoming scarce and that the Indians and their horses are “poor”.
By 1860, we must assume that Fred was married and busy with the affairs of a husband and father.
Fred married a Minneconjou Tetuwan (Sioux), Good Elk Woman, who became Mary Ann Dupuis.
She had one son already, Heritary Chief, and Head Chief of the Minneconjou, Henry Makes Room Junior from her previous marriage to Heritary Chief and Head Chief Henry Makes Room Senior.
Fredrick Dupuis adopted Henry Makes Room Jr when he married Mary Good Elk Woman.
Good Elk Woman was the daughter of One Iron Horn and Red Dressing. Some Elders in the Dupuis/Dupris/Dupree family remember that Good Elk Woman was from Cherry Creek.
Mary Good Elk Woman and Fred had nine children. They were Xavier, Edward, Pete, Fred Jr, Maggie, Esther, Armaine, Josephine and Marcella, “not one of whom could speak English”, with the exception of Edward, who was a student at Hampton, Virginia. After being an independent trader for some time (probably as the buffalo dwindled and the Indians were put on reservations) Fredrick became a stock grower. Fred built the family home in a beautiful wooded flat on the north side of the Cheyenne River, thirty five miles west of where it empties into the Missouri. The patriarchal home was described as being 20 ft by 60 ft, and built of cottonwood logs.As each son or daughter married a new small log house (called a tipi by the family) was built. These homes had dirt floors and gumbo roofs, and the homes were in a row near the main house. In addition there were usually a dozen or more tipis nearby, pitched by the full-blood Tetuwan relatives of Mary Good Elk Woman/Mary Ann Dupris. The living arrangement was truly communal. The women had a large vegetable garden, the men worked the stock, and all the cooking and eating was done in one cabin. One of the women baked all the bread, another made coffee and served the food. Three times a day 52 people ate together, along with any strangers or friends who might happen along. Dupuis/Dupris/Dupree home was known as a place for sharing good times and good food in the true Indian way. This was the era of government ration/allotments, and all 52 of the family members collected their share, which was hauled home in wagons from Fort Bennett, even though Fredrick was reputed to be wealthy, with several thousand head of cattle and 500 horses, a small domesticated buffalo herd and a large amount of other property…(later of which ….Fred gave the land for the township of Dupree, South Dakota.) The marriage of Marcella Dupuis, Fred’s youngest daughter, to Douglas F. Carlin, a non-Indian, of Pierre must have been a noteworthy event since newspapers from Deadwood and Pierre covered the event. Mr. Carlin was noted as the issue clerk at the Cheyenne River Agency. The marriage ceremony was performed at the Dupuis family home on the Cheyenne River, with many important persons from the city, including the Pierre City Council, and unknown numbers of Tetuwan’s (Sioux) present. Forty fat steers were to be roasted for the feast.
All the wedding gifts were put on exhibition after supper, the most impressive being five hundred head of cattle and fifty horses from the brides father, Fred. The Tetuwan (Sioux) dancing continued for three days with the only interruption being a pause for more eating every three hours.
The Dupuis family’s contribution to saving the buffalo:
In 1883 (or possibly earlier) Fred and some of his sons and possibly Basil Clement (Claymore) went on a buffalo hunt for some buffalo calves in order to start a herd to preserve the species from extinction.
By this time the great surrounds of the past were over and we can imagine that the desire to preserve at least a few of these animals so necessary, and so Sacred to the Tetuwan people, was strong.
The group headed northwest from Cheyenne River, and these men were gone for many months and in Montana or near Slim Buttes (reports differ), they located a small herd. They finally secured five calves, (other reports were nine buffalo calves), which were loaded onto the wagons brought for that purpose. The buffalo calves were taken back to pure-blood buffalos. By the time of Fred’s death in 1898 the herd had grown considerably, and was purchased by James (Scotty) Phillip of Fort Pierre.
By 1918 (the herd) had increased to approximately 500 head. The state of South Dakota purchased 46 of these buffalo and transferred them to the State Game Park in Fall River County.
Hearsay has it that Scotty Phillips sold the buffalo to other states and parks also, spreading the original Dupris stock back into many areas where the buffalo once roamed free by the millions.
Fred Dupris died in 1898 at about the age of 80. Then, as now, a death was the occasion for sharing through a Giveaway of all of the deceased’s belongings. From Aunt Molly Dupris Annis Rivers, Fred’s granddaughter, we have heard the colorful story of how some of the Dupris/Dupree wealth was distributed. It is said that according to Lakota Tetuwan custom, any one who happened by the Giveaway was entitled to a gift, and this even included a group of Crow Indians, traditional enemy of the Tetuwan (Sioux) since anyone can remember, who just happened to be passing by at the time.
The Crows were invited to join the other guests as they filed by a horse whose saddle bags had been filled with silver dollars. Each person took a silver dollar until they were gone.
The next person in line was given the saddle, and the last person received the horse.In this way, and probably by other methods, Fredrick Dupris money and property were shared with the people.
None of Fred’s oft-mentioned wealth was inherited by any of his children or family.Records indicate that Mary Good Elk Woman, Mary Ann Dupris, died in 1900 at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Tom (Alma) Blue Eyes. One can only wonder about Mary Good Elk Woman’s life after Fredrick died, just as one wonders about her years of living, first as a child growing up a Cherry Creek, then as a young wife of Heritary Chief /Head Chief Henry Makes Room Senior, and Mother of Makes Room Jr, and later as Mary Ann Dupris, mother of nine half French half Lakota children. Mary Good Elk Woman’s life during the early time of tragedy and defeat for the Indian people cannot have been an easy one.
Fredrick and Mary, and many of their descendants are buried in the Dupris Cemetary on the hill above the river flat where their family home once was. Nearby is the old “Buffalo Church.”
Fredrick and Mary may be gone, but South Dakota will not forget them.
Dupree Creek runs into Ruby Creek and then into the Cheyenne River near the old home site, and the (town) of Dupree is located about 40 miles north of Cherry Creek where Fred carried on his fur trading.
Just west of the Dupris/Dupree/Dupuis Cemetery and the old church, in a draw filled with wild plums and chockcerries, the Dupree Spring (called the Circle P Spring, or Garrett Spring today) still furnishes clear, sweet water. Imagine the hundreds of trips made to this spring, winter and summer, to haul water for the Dupuis family living down the hill by the river in the 1800’s. The name, though changed from Dupuis to Dupris, and in some cases to Dupree, has been carried all over South Dakota, and to probably every state in the US by their hundreds of descendants.Suzanne (BJ) Dupree is the daughter of Calvin Dupree; Calvin Dupree is the son of Adelia Fielder and Jonas Dupris; son of Sarah Red Horse and Frank Dupris; son of Harriet Cadotte and Xavier (David) Dupuis; son of Mary Ann Good Elk Woman and Fredrick Dupuis. Calvin Dupree was a member of the faculty of Education at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta before his death in 1994.
Calvin was a five year Sun Dancer, a Cannunpa (Pipe) carrier, gifted him by Ceremonial Chief and Holy Man of the Tetuwan Nations (Dakota/Lakota/Nakota), Frank Fools Crow, in 1971 at Pine Ridge South Dakota, of Fools Crow’s Ceremonial Cannunpa for the Tetuwan Nations of both Canada and the United States, at the White Buffalo Calf Pipe Revival Ceremonies and accompanying Sun Dances in a series of five, that lasted 5 years (1970-1975) finishing in Green Grass.
Calvin Dupree’s daughter, Suzanne Dupree-Wade/Looking Back Woman, is a Lakota Scholar, historian, author, and Buffalo Calf Cannunpa Carrier.
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