Friday Harbor is the county seat and the largest commercial center for the San Juan Islands archipelago in Washington. It is accessible by ferry from Anacortes, Washington, and from Sidney, British Columbia. Friday Harbor was named after Joseph Poalie Friday, a Hawaiian Islander who tended sheep for the Hudson’s Bay Company around 1861. He had a cabin on the land overlooking the harbor, a landmark for mariners navigating to “Friday’s Harbor”. At that time San Juan Island was considered part of the Hudson’s Bay Fort Victoria operation on Vancouver Island.
The Hudson’s Bay Company in Canada employed many Hawaiian Islanders, known as Kanakas, in the 19th century. At that time jobs were scarce in the Hawaiian Islands (or Sandwich Islands) and commoners could not own land, so the Hudson’s Bay Company could easily recruit fishermen and sailors to work in the Pacific Northwest. Kanaka sailors were aboard many whalers, as well as exploration and trading ships. They also held jobs in many Hudson’s Bay Company forts in the Pacific Northwest including Fort Durham in Alaska, and on Vancouver Island and San Juan Island.
The San Juan Islands are part of the traditional area of various Coastal Salish people including the Nooksack, Lummi, Klallam, Saanich, Samish, and Songhees. European explorations began in the late 18th century with the arrival of Spanish explorer Francisco de Eliza, who charted the islands in 1791 under the authority of the Viceroy of Mexico. Captain George Vancouver of the Royal Navy explored the islands within a year of the Spanish. American explorations began in 1841 led by Charles Wilkes. The 1846 Oregon Treaty established the 49th parallel as the boundary between the British and U.S. west but did not specify the boundary location through the San Juan Islands resulting in a boundary dispute. The escalating dispute led to the Pig War in 1859 and a protracted diplomatic confrontation that was finally resolved through arbitration in 1871, with the San Juan Islands awarded to the United States. The fortified encampments of the British and U.S. Armies on San Juan Island are now managed by the National Park Service. Since the 1890s, the community of Friday Harbor has been the commercial, social, and cultural hub for the island archipelago. Read more here and here. Explore more of Friday Harbor here: