an image

The San Juan Islands has a great history due to its location, involving the most powerful empires in the 18th century: the crowns of Spain and Britain, and the United States. The San Juan Islands are exactly situated on the north side of the bay area of Seattle, also known as the Puget Sound, surrounding by the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Haro Strait, the Rosario Strait, and the Strait of Georgia, forming the archipelagos known as San Juan County, in the U.S. state of Washington. The history of these islands has been always linked to the history of both nations, Canada and the United States in their many battles during the 19th century, although Canada was one of the colonies of the British Crown, one of the first empires to send expeditions to these lands located in the north of the American continent.

The name of San Juan Islands was officially given to this group of archipelagos by Francisco de Eliza, explorer and conqueror of the Spanish Crown, who finally gave the name to these in 1971. The history has shown us that, only a year before, on August 1st, 1790, one of the members of this Spanish crew of explorers, Manuel Quimper landed at Neah Bay discovering these lands by sea on his ship Princesa Real, and claiming the Olympic Peninsula as Spanish territory. Along with Eliza, other explorers such as Gonzalo López de Haro and Juan Vicente de Güemes Padilla Horcasitas y Aguayo, received the honor to name the islands of Haro and Orcas (from Horcasistas, Orcas Houses).

Native Americans were, needless to say, the first inhabitants of the area of the Puget Sound, even in the area of the archipelagos. The Native American tribes have been residing on the islands for centuries before Europeans started colonizing these lands. The Lummi tribe, as one of the many Native American tribes in the archipelagos like Klallam, Saanich, or Songhees (representingthe Coast Salish inhabitants of the San Juan Islands) is one of the Native American Nations that was confined to live in the Lummi Reservation after the signing of the “Point Elliot” Treaty of 1885 with the United States. Today, all kind of ethnic groups live in the islands.

These islands, home of the ancient Native Americans tribes, received several explorations from Europeans who did not get to settle down until in the 19th century, in the 1850s, although the several visits from the Europeans brought the smallpox into the islands in the 1770s. The Spanish crown was the first to be defeated by the British in Europe and started to lose most of their colonies around the world. This was the main reason why the British Crown, with English navigator George Vancouver, and the United States, with American Navy officer Charles Wilkes, started taking over the islands and also inland, places that adopted new English names. The different British settlements were mainly farmers, hunters, shepherd, while the Americans were mostly gold miners that did not find any luck in the Canadian lands of the Caribou country.

The war between these two nations was just around the corner after the several conflicts that were confronting each other until the year 1859 when the “Pig War” started. Lyman Cutlar, American citizen and owner of a farm, shot to death a pig, property of a British neighbor. The reason was that the pig used to run all over the fields, destroying the plantations of potatoes. The US government confronted the British one when Lyman Cutlar was going to be arrested. However, both parties got to an agreement to rule over the San Juan Islands together. In 1872, the Kaiser of Germany declared the islands, territory of the United States.