Born in 1933, an Arapaho Woman’s Life on the Wind River Indian Reservation by Darrah J. Perez

Doris Mae Armour-Wagon

Daughter, Sister, Mother, Aunt, Grandmanew 112913 161

A Sand Creek Massacre descendant from her mother’s side, Doris Wagon was born in 1933.

Born to an Arapaho mother and father, Doris grew up on the Wind River Indian Reservation living in a small one room house where she shared living quarters with her mother, father and siblings. Such small space where her sister and her slept along the walls keeping the stove in the middle lit to provide heat. Every morning the floor had to be swept just in case there may have been wandering bugs crawl in. Her father ran the gas station, a little one room store located at the center of Ethete. Her mom stayed home tending to the huge garden putting the kids to work helping her.


Doris was the oldest out of seven kids, with two passed away young, both twins. She told the stories of riding the family wagon into town and to other parts of the large reservation. “It was an all day trip, but always fun,” she’d say. “There was a skating rink down by the river, we use to ice skate when it was cold and froze over.” Doris had many childhood memories shared with her many friends made along the way. At an early age she was sent away to school at St. Stephens Mission. “We had to stay the week and go home on weekends,” she recalled. “We rode horses to school.”

At school Doris forever remembered the nuns who were mean, especially when her or her friends spoke in the Arapaho language. English was forced. “We always had to wear the dresses the sisters made for us. “We were forced to live ‘proper,’” it was told to her.

“When we did something or said something out of line we would get swatted pretty hard with a ruler. In different areas depending on who was giving the beating.”

School was fun and provided opportunities to mingle with the local boys. Doris always did have an eye for the cute boys.

Sent off to boarding school in South Dakota, in Flandreau she met a man who was an Eastern Shoshone, also from the Wind River Reservation.

Together they got to know each other and after completing high school, her husband enlisted in the army and together they moved to Fort Sill, Oklahoma where he was stationed. Within four years Doris stayed beside her husband until he was sent overseas to serve the army.

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Doris had a desire to become a nurse and in her time became one. No certification needed back then. A nurse aid for the Wyoming State Training School, an OBGYN Nurse’s Aide, a CHR Specialist for the Tribal Health Program, Doris took to helping others and had a passion for it.

Doris had a total of 5 children, the marriage between her and the father of her children lasted for 20 years before it ended in divorce. Having pure love for her family, Doris decided to explore the city of Denver where she continued working in nursing. There in nursing she worked for the hospital and provided for her children.

The experiences in Denver took up 8 year’s time where then Doris moved back to the reservation to be near her ill father. It was discovered that he had cancer. A tough discovery and way too late for it was unaware for quite a bit of time.

Laying her father to rest Doris was left to be the strong sister to her three remaining siblings, Charlotte, Mary, and Shirley.


With her father no longer there, the family split in different directions.Camera pics 001

Doris focused more on her family and grandchildren, giving them each a good life. With a heart of gold and tender loving care, Doris raised her grandchildren to the best of her ability. Not always agreeing with her grandchildren’s wishes Doris forced her way with things; her way or the highway. Her stature created respect from all. Sometimes judgmental and hard treating, Doris forever had the best intention and wanted nothing but the best for her children and grandchildren.

Doris lost her youngest child who was four at the time as a result of an allergic reaction to penicillin after getting his tonsils taken out. The pain of losing this child stuck with her for an eternity.

The rest of Doris’ children grew up and lived productive lives. One of her son’s enlisted in the Air Force and successfully graduated and went off to school for a degree in business. Another son had interest in being a pediatrician and went to school in South Dakota, until, funding became a problem.

In later years, Doris Mae lost another son to a tragic accident. Something that wasn’t supposed to happen. He was murdered by his girlfriend over a fight that started from a football game. Stabbed numerous times her son was killed instantly.

The news came knocking on the door one morning by the local police department. “Your son David Wagon was murdered in Alaska this morning,” they said. Another tragedy that took a piece of light from Doris Wagon’s heart.

After burying her son, she became even closer to his children, Marisa and Donny. Their images brought so much reminder of her oldest son.


For many years Doris enjoyed life working at the local senior citizen program, later to begin working for a program called, “Green Thumb,” which provided her training in different fields. She worked as a librarian for the community library for many years, then became a culture teacher, teaching the Northern Arapaho language to the children.

Doris was instilled with the mentality of hard work, which she was not a stranger to.

Buying a house in Ethete, where she raised her grandchildren, Doris welcomed all into her home. A big heart is what Doris had.

When others had problems they would come to Doris for honest advice. She said what she thought, and never lied about how she felt.

971840_567611729928257_1684349711_nAll Doris’ grandchildren loved her. She gave them the world and protected them from harm, over- babying and spoiling them at times. Though they only knew she loved them.

With her grown children out experiencing the world, Doris always welcomed them home at any time. Even when the house was crowded, she made room for them whenever the time arose.

Her two remaining sons were heavy drinkers and they drank themselves happy until they had no more drinking left in their body. It eventually took their life at such a young age. Michael Wagon was the first to go. He worked in the print shop where the newspapers were printed. Through his skills he had learned to use the printing machines.

His death took its toll on the entire family, his children, his nieces and nephews, cousins, his remaining siblings and his parents. Doris was never the same, she longed for her lost family.

A year later alcoholic cirrhosis took her last remaining son, Gary. They didn’t always see eye to eye and argued a lot, but it was only out of love and the wanting for him to do the right things in life.

jared gameA world shattered by death, Doris remained strong for the rest of the family, she knew they too were hurting.

Diagnosed with Diabetes in her younger years, Doris had to inject insulin into her body every day to have a normal life. Sometimes not always watching what she ate. Sometimes having too low or too high blood sugar readings. The family learned how to watch for sign and symptoms of both.

Having surgery performed when she had stomach problems, Doris began eat smaller portions. Later her kidneys became effected by bad health and had to have a stent placed in the valves in one, maybe even both.

With life taking its toll on her body, Doris became aware of a bad heart. All the stress, and heart ache from life’s struggles and pains finally began taking its final marks on her.

Her energy decreased and she pushed herself to the limits creating a tired effect in-between days. Wanting to enjoy life as much as she could, she loved to travel to the major powwows on the powwow trail and did so with the companions of her family.

Every chance she had, eating out was her favorite thing to do. When at home and no place to go, she enjoyed watching Matlock and other crime shows upon her television.

Doris loved making fry bread, yeast bread, and all other types of food for her family. She loved to sew on her sewing machine. She loved making flowers on memorial day. She loved listening to powwow music. She loved her children, grandchildren, and her great grandchildren.


Doris passed away as a result of heart failure on November 5th 2015, she was sadly missed by her big family. With many memories to cherish and hold, many of them with pain, for the world had lost one of the most amazing, gentle hearted, loving women. A daughter, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a grandma and a great-grandma.

Doris Mae Armour-Wagon is greatly missed.




8 thoughts on “Born in 1933, an Arapaho Woman’s Life on the Wind River Indian Reservation by Darrah J. Perez

  1. Grandmas are the greatest. Sounds like you are fortunate to have her for as long as you did. My grandma kept the family together. She also helped to raise several other children besides her eight. I was 12 when she died. Nice tribute. Cher’ley


  2. Wonderful tribute and honor you have afforded to your grandmother. Yes, a life full of tragedy and hard work, but she triumphed over it. You got through to me what a loving, kindhearted woman Doris was.


  3. Wonderful post, Darrah! I love reading about the people who have impacted your life and the lives of others on the reservation. We can all make a positive (or negative) impact on people around us. Thanks for sharing about this wonderful woman.


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