Tony Coolidge Indigenous Advocate and Business Entrepreneur

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How I came to be the way I am.

Tony's mother

I was born in Taipei to a Taiwanese mother and American father. We moved away from my mother's home country when I was 3 yrs. old, and afterward I was raised as an American citizen with little knowledge of my mother's heritage. I only knew that she was from Taiwan and missed her family back home. She waited for a lifetime for the day she could return and reunite with them. In March of 1994, I moved to Orlando, Florida to be by her side as she bravely fought cancer. She was only 44 yrs. old and faced her disease by living life to the fullest. I made a promise to her that I would return with her to her beloved country and meet all of the wonderful people she loved.

She lost her battle with cancer, and died on Mother's Day in 1994. She died without ever sharing her indigenous voice with me. She kept her true heritage a secret until she passed on. I never saw my mother fulfill her lifelong dream of returning to her home in the mountains.

I was very close to her, and felt much sorrow over her passing, but the worst feeling was not being able to fulfill my promise to her. I made a promise to myself to continue to Taiwan without her and discover my family and heritage.

Thanks to a generous aunt and uncle, James and Yu Yin Lytle, I was able to make the trip in May of 1995. It was a trip that made a lasting impression on me. I was greeted warmly by dozens of relatives, many of whom remember me leaving Taiwan as a 3 yr-old. They were generous, and shared so much with me, including their unique indigenous culture. To my surprise, I learned that my ancestry was not that of the mainstream Taiwanese, but of the indigenous Formosan tribes, whom I have never heard of. The one-month trip of discovery opened my eyes to the beauty of their culture and made me painfully aware that it was in danger of disappearing forever.

I could never understand why my mother kept her heritage a secret from me. I found out that many indigenous people from Taiwan keep their heritage hidden from the public and I wanted to know why. I committed myself to traveling to Taiwan to understand the culture of my heritage. But I wanted to do more than just understand the culture. I created the non-profit company, ATAYAL, Inc., and took on a mission to empower the indigenous tribes of Formosa and give them the tools to be heard throughout the world. I have dedicated myself to this mission to preserve this beautiful culture for my son and many generations to come. I have taken on my mission to honor my mother and to make up for all of the silence she endured in her lifetime.

This is the mission of my life. I look to surround myself with people who want to make a difference in the world. I have met tribal leaders from all corners of the world and each has a similar commitment. We all see a world where indigenous people can unite and thrive and contribute beauty, wisdom and prosperity to the world.

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