Michael H. (Mugga) Blatchford
We are deeply saddened by the loss of a dear friend of APRIL and the Independent Living Movement. Michael H. (Mugga) Blatchford passed away on Saturday, November 28 of disability-related complications. Mike was Executive Director of ASSIST! to Independence located in Tuba City, Arizona, which has the unique distinction of being the only Independent Living Center and Regional Resource Center for Assistive Technology on tribal lands in the United States. Mike was always very proud of his Center's mission, which is to provide culturally relevant services to a cross disability American Indian population, designed to enhance quality of life and community access through maximizing independence and improving functional skills.
When talking about IL, Mike often patiently explained that "in Native culture, identity is strongly connected to a sense of place and their connection to the land. In order for "Independent Living" to truly take hold and be effective and productive in Indian Country, some changes need to occur that truly honor, respect and respond to the cultural differences that exist. The concept of independent living and the independent living philosophy needs to be presented in the context of wellness, not disability, and services geared toward helping an individual return to balance.
Services offered should be reflective of cultural differences, and very dynamic so they can change to meet changing needs: to accommodate needs that are "survival" based but which allow the individual to return to a balanced state within the present moment - not looking five and ten years down the road. This could include such things as traditional healing and environmental interventions. These types of things would be more culturally appropriate core services to offer." He spent much of every day living and communicating this message to others.
Mike has been a friend and supporter of APRIL as a Board Member since 2001, serving as External Vice President since 2006. He also received the Earl Walden Award for Outstanding Rural Advocacy in 2002.
In a note from his family a few days following his death:
The Hopi's believe that when a soul departs this life to journey into the next world, if they had a big heart and were a good person, then it will snow. I will tell you that the evening Mike passed, it snowed like crazy all night.
Walk in beauty, Mike. We're really going to miss your smiling face and your gentle spirit.
Your friends at APRIL.