Edwards, Bill (birth/death dates unknown)

It is probable that Bill Edwards was a slave of the Makah of Cape Flattery who paid a trading visit to Fort Victoria in 1846. Finlayson recorded that on 17 July, 1846 “13 canoes of Cape Flatteries [Makah Indians] arrived” among whom was an American sailor, a “deserter” who “appears to have conformed to the habits” of the Makah traders, “in short as a hired servant.” Slavery among Coastal tribes operated within a prestige and wealth economy, derived through the acquisition of war captives, deserters or shipwrecked sailors. It appears that Bill Edwards lived among the Makah for a year or more, as Finlayson recorded that Edwards’ “partner . . . [is] now in the family way.” When the Makah departed from Fort Victoria on 19 July Edwards chose to remain behind, “conceal[ing] himself until they left.” In February of the following year Edwards sought to leave the fort aboard the American brigantine Henry. Finlayson’s record for 16 February, 1847, notes: “this morning [Bill Edwards] solicited & obtained leave to join his countrymen.” Edwards’ countrymen were present enough along coastal regions hunting for whales, and trading at Neah Bay (Cape Flattery).


  • Donald, Leland. Aboriginal Slavery on the Northwest Coast of North America. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1997.
  • Mackie, Richard Somerset. “The Hudson’s Bay Company on the Pacific, 1821-1843.” PhD. Thesis, University of British Columbia, 1993.
  • Webb, Robert Lloyd. On the Northwest: Commercial Whaling in the Pacific Northwest, 1790-1967. Vancouver: University of British Columbia, 1988.
Frederick Gentz