San Juan Island
San Juan Island is located in US waters, south and east of Vancouver Island. This island is at the heart of several bodies of water, including the Salish Sea. Its western shore looks to the Haro Strait, its southern end rests in the Juan de Fuca Strait and points to Puget Sound, further south. The Spanish named the island in the late 1700s, which Vancouver also adopted on his charts, though early fur traders knew Port San Juan as Poverty Bay.1
San Juan Island staged the colloquially named “Pig War” when, in 1859, a US farmer shot a British farmer's pig, during Anglo-America joint occupation of the Island—theirs was a conflict in miniature of the larger border concerns left unresolved following the Oregon Treaty of 1846, which settled, so it was thought, the disputes over Oregon Territory.2
The ambiguous treaty clause in question stated that the boundary lie in the middle of the channel which separates the continent from Vancouver's Island.3 Unfortunately, San Juan Island touched two channels: the Haro Strait to the left and the Rosario Strait to the right. After much posturing, both political and naval, the whole matter was settled by Kaiser Wilhelm I in 1872, when an arbitration commission ruled the Haro Strait to be the boundary strait, thus awarding the Island to the United States.4
  • 1. Andrew Scott, The Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names (Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2009), 474.
  • 2. The Pig War, San Juan Island National Historical Park.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Ibid.
Mentions of this place in the documents