Bill Reid, born William Ronald Reid Jr., was born on January 12, 1920, in Victoria, Canada. He was the son of a Haida mother, Sophie Gladstone, from Skidegate Mission, Queen Charlotte Islands, and a Scottish-German American father, William Ronald Reid. During his childhood his family made several moves between Victoria and Hyder, Alaska; he later lived in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Reid was raised entirely in the European/North American society of his father; as a teenager, he first became aware of his Haida heritage. In 1943, when Reid was in his early twenties, he got to know his maternal grandfather, Charles Gladstone, the last in a direct line of Haida silversmiths who had learned their craft from their elders.