Po`alima (Peter Friday)

Black and white hyperrealistic sketch of a bearded man in suspenders
Reconstructed image of Peter Friday based on primary sources

Amy Kapuanani Antonio-Clausen

Quick Facts
Friday Harbor, WA

Po`alima also known as Peter Friday (Po`alima means ‘Friday’ in Hawaiian) was a Hawaiian Islander who first came to the Pacific Northwest in 1842 at the age of 12. Po`alima initially worked at the Cowlitz Farm, a Hudson's Bay Company agricultural center near the mouth of the Columbia River in present day Washington. While there, Po`alima married a Coast Salish woman and they had a child named Joe Friday. In 1854, the Friday family moved to San Juan Island where Po`alima worked as one of the Hudson's Bay Company shepherds, rearing and herding sheep from his home in what is now the village of Friday Harbor.

During his time there, Po`alima was visited by a passing American ship who asked him what the name of the place he lived was. Po`alima, misunderstanding his interlocutors, told the Americans his English name, which is how Friday Harbor got its name. In 1860, Po`alima left the Hudson’s Bay Company and began homesteading independently at his former sheep station. At some point, Po`alima’s wife died and he remarried a Songhees First Nations woman named Saaptenar with whom he had two daughters. When all the other Hawaiians left San Juan Island in 1872, the Friday family remained, using Joe Friday’s status as an American-born citizen to claim their family homestead, which Po`alima and Saaptenar could not do because Native Americans and Hawaiian born men were barred from full citizenship due to their race. In his old age, Peter Friday rejoined his fellow Hawaiian HBC employees and their families in British Columbia, where they had relocated after the boundary dispute resolution to enjoy equal rights.

San Juan Island National Historical Park

Last updated: August 6, 2022