As we reflect on both Local History Month and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, it is worth highlighting the connection between Native Hawaiians and San Juan Islanders. In fact, Friday Harbor’s very name may be a tribute to Joe Friday, an immigrant from Hawaii.
An article in Historylink, written by Brenda Pratt, explains the story behind the name. Joe Poalima was born in Oahu, in 1830, according to the San Juan Island Census of 1880. His Hawaiian name was written as “Poalie”, although this word had no meaning in the Hawaiian language, and was so most likely “Poalima”, which translates to “Friday”, which seems to be the name he had. While working for the Hudson’s Bay Company from 1841 to 1860, he was called “Friday.” He had a son, Joseph Friday. According to Historylink, the child’s mother is believed to have been a Native American woman. “There may have been a marriage and she may have died, although no record of this has yet been found. Joe’s birth was probably at Cowlitz Farm and is recorded in the census of 1880 as having taken place in Washington Territory,” the article wrote.
In 1854, Friday, and his son, and very probably the mother of his child, settled in Belle Vue [Sheep] Farm on San Juan Island. They lived in a log cabin overlooking the bay and what would become Friday Harbor. This is when the legend of how Friday Harbor got its name began. The story goes that confused sailors called out to someone ashore to ask which bay it was. Many said it was Joe Friday, who, not hearing properly, answered on Friday. However, it was Friday who, while tending the sheep, was saluted by the sailors, not Joe Friday who would have been still a very young child. Friday quit his job with HBC at Belle Vue Farm in 1860. It appears he stayed on San Juan Island in his cabin for some time.
In 1870 Friday married Mary [Saaptenar] of the Songhees tribe of Canada, from whom he had a son Lassel (1866). To marry Mary, he converted to Catholicism, at which time he acquired the name “Pierre”. [Pierre]. The marriage records are in St. Andrews Cathedral in Victoria, British Columbia. Subsequently, the San Juan County, Washington Territory Census records him as “Peter” on Friday. Peter Friday also had two other children with Mary of the Songhees tribe: John (1872) and Emma (1875).
The historical link article cites vital statistics for British Columbia, showing that Peter Friday died on April 11, 1894 and was buried on April 13, two days later.
The Friday family were not the only Hawaiian immigrants to the San Juan Islands. The Hudson’s Bay Company recruited a number of what were called Kanakas, which referred to laborers from the Pacific Islands. Kanaka Bay on San Juan Island was the location of a colony of such workers.
As the memory of Peter, or Friday, has faded on San Juan Island, the story of Friday Harbor often mistakenly remembers Joe Friday as the shepherd whose smoke from the cabin served as a point landmark for “Friday’s Harbour”, if a name is assigned. . Nevertheless, the island state of Hawaii and our small island county in the Pacific Northwest remain linked through history.