Blatchford is the founder of Sugpiaq Seafoods, a company aimed at
giving fair prices to native fishermen who ship wild Alaskan salmon,
halibut and black cod to renowned chefs like Wolfgang Puck and Emeril
Lagasse. She is also on a mission to revive and preserve the native
language of her mother's people, the Sugpiaq, also known as the
Aleuts, reported the Alaska Dispatch.
And even as she assembles a book and documentary
about a critical point in Sugpiaq history, which she hopes will
inspire the tribe's youth to explore their history and learn
the language, Blatchford is battling infiltrating lobular cancera
rare and aggressive form of late-state breast cancer, according
to the Oregonian.
"My mother is Sugpiaq Eskimo, and
my father is Inupiaq Eskimo," Blatchford said in a video by
The Oregonian. "We come from a family of warriors, and we just
don't give up."
Blatchford was diagnosed in February 2009,
after seeking doctors' opinions for fatigue she had been suffering
since 2007. This February, her condition took a turn for the worse.
"The cancer burns in my chest like someone spilled gas on me
and lit a match," she said.
But the pain is not deterring Blatchford
from her mission to save her diminishing language, spoken fluently
by 28 elders of the only 2,400 Sugpiaq people on or near Kodiak
Island. "Without our elders we have no oral tradition and we
have no culture," Blatchford told The Oregonian. "And
it's only in the language that we really have been able to
get an identity of who we are. The identity washes over us when
we speak the language. The only way a people survives is through
the language. That's it."
Blatchford is currently in Mexico receiving
hyperthermia therapy, a German-developed treatment that raises the
body temperature to kill off cancer cells. (The treatment is still
in clinical trials in the U.S.) She also hopes to receive the dendrite
cancer vaccine, which essentially boosts the immune system's
response to rid tumors from the body.
Blatchford, who has chosen to heal through
both Western and alternative medicine, elected to travel to Mexico
for the therapy after her doctors indicated she needed to change
her treatment.She was offered a discount, if she could pay $10,000
by April 30, 2011. One of her brothers set up a website requesting
and as of April 25, donations to the site had reached $9,239.
"What's telling for me about
her as a person is that in her time of personal crisis she is thinking
about other people instead of focusing on herself," said April
Counceller, a tribal member and manager of the Alutiiq Language
Program on Kodiak Island, to The Oregonian. "She's trying
to find ways to raise money to save the language and find ways for
people to learn from the elders."
Blatchford, who began learning her language
through immersion in 2005, credits it with being a driving force
in her life: "I heard the words Sugpiaq, and saw the words
in a newspaper, and that's my number one bucket list dream."
To donate to Isabella's medical treatment
fund, go to www.bellasfund.org, To learn more about efforts to preserve
the Alutiiq language, visit alutiiqmuseum.org/portal.