How Did Vashon Island Get Its Name?

If you’ve ever been to this island, you might have wondered how it got its name. Well, there’s a pretty interesting story behind it! According to local legend, the island was named after a Native American chief who once lived there. However, the name’s true origin is still a bit of a mystery. Some believe it comes from a Native American word meaning “haven” or “place of refuge.”

Photo 87969970 © Cleardesign |

History and Location

Our quaint island, located in Puget Sound near Seattle, was initially named after a figure from American maritime history. James Vasques was a friend and fellow officer to British explorer George Vancouver, who visited the area during his famous expedition in 1792. In 1847, George Vancouver, another explorer, renamed the island “Burton Island” after Captain Burton of the British Navy.

For those looking to dig deeper into the island’s history, plenty of sites are tied to its original inhabitants – including ancient shell middens, campfire rings near Squababsh, and petroglyphs translated with help from local elders who still speak the Lushootseed language. Ultimately, the island is both a tribute to those who came before us and an inviting place for those looking for the perfect combination of fun activities and captivating historical exploration – all within driving distance from Seattle and Tacoma.

Our Island was named by accident. In 1791, explorer George Vancouver was mapping the Puget Sound when one of his officers, Joseph Baker, mistakenly charted the island as “Vancouver’s Island.” The name didn’t stick, and Vancouver eventually renamed it, and it became known simply as Vashon. Interestingly, the original Native American name for the island was “Sqababsh,” which means “distant views” in the Chinook language. The Shawnee people also inhabited our island and called it “Illahie,” meaning “land of many things.”

The word “Vashon” comes from the Lushootseed language of the Suquamish tribe, a Native American group that originally inhabited the island now known as Vashon Island, Washington.

Vashon Island
Author: Vashon Island

Vashon is an Island located between Tacoma and West Seattle. This account manages the website full on useful information for residents and visitors of the Island.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.