Isabella’s Story: Working to Sustain Her Sugpiaq Fishing Heritage. Now She’s Fighting for Her Life

A sad update: Bella passed away on January 10, 2012. Her courage will always be an inspiration. Thank you to everyone who sustained and supported her over the last year. As a tribute to her, the rest of this post remains in it’s original form.


Regular readers of my blog will recognize how unique this post is. It’s far from what I normally write about. But I feel compelled to tell a story in the hopes that I can help spread the word for a friend in need. Isabella, my next door neighbor, is fighting for her life against cancer. You can help with a donation, tweet or status update. Here’s Bella’s story.

Isabella Blatchford, a native Alaskan Sugpiaq Indian, was well on her way to creating a sustainable seafood business. (She had already sold to Wolfgang Puck and Emeril Lagasse!) She saw it not only as a viable business, but a means to support her Sugpiaq heritage and honor her tribal elders – the last handful of Sugpiaq  speakers. In February 2009, she discovered she had Stage 4 cancer. Using a blend of standard and alternative medical treatments, she was able to beat the odds for the last few years. 

However in February 2011 her cancer tumor markers went back up rapidly, and her doctors are have told her that it is time for a quick change in her method of treatment. She has the opportunity to travel to Mexico for treatment. She is in need of $7,000 by April 20th, 2011 in order to obtain treatment. 

Isabella Update: Here’s a story and powerful video from the Oregonian An Alaska native who lives in Portland battles cancer while working to save a tribe’s language (April 13, 2011)

Isabella needs your help. Even a small donation will be appreciated. And you can help her get the word out – contribute a Twitter link or a Facebook status update.

Thank you for anything you can do.

Photo: Torsten Kjellstrand/The Oregonian