There is evidence that some humans lived on Whidbey Island perhaps 8,000 years ago. Certainly, there were significant villages of Snohomish, Suquamish, Skagit and Swinomish Indians or their ancestors by 1500. From 1500 to 1640, hundreds of European explorers, especially those Portuguese and Spanish navigators influenced by Prince Henry’s school of navigation in Lisbon, circumnavigated the globe and sailed southern and northern waters with confidence.
In 1500 the Portuguese navigator Gaspar Cortereal discovered Labrador and the entrance to Hudson Bay. Spanish and Portuguese mariners made parallel discoveries in the Pacific: Balboa in 1513, followed by Cortez, Cabrillo, and Ferrelo. Martin Frobisher in the 1550’s explored widely the northern coasts of present-day Canada. In 1610, a Dutch navigator sailing for England, Henry Hudson, explored Hudson Bay far to the west seeking the theoretical “Northwest Passage” believed to connect the Atlantic to the Pacific across North America, analogous to what Ferdinand Magellan found in 1520 at the ‘bottom’ of South America where the Atlantic Ocean joined the Pacific.
Sir Francis Drake in 1579 sailed the outer coast of much of the “Oregon Territory” in his quest for fame. To promote trade and find a ‘Northwest Passage’ route across North America (and solidify British interests in these resource-rich lands), the Hudson’s Bay Company was founded in London, in 1668.