The ATAYAL organization wishes to acknowledge and honor the people whose spirit has continued to inspire and motivate us beyond their deaths.
Yaki Vinai died on September 19, 2008 at the age of 105.
Yaki Vinai in December 2004 during the filming of Voices In The Clouds.
Yaki Vinai, of Wufeng Village in Hsinchu County, died on September 19, 2008 at the age of 105. She received the facial tattoos of honor at the age of 13, even though the practice was outlawed at the time by the Japanese colonialists. She insisted on bearing the facial tattoos, which made her a symbol of cultural pride, and even hid for a year to to ensure she could keep it.
During the making of the documentary film, Voices in the Clouds, Tony Coolidge and his group met four Atayal elders with facial tattoos. Yaki Vinai was the most energetic and charismatic of the four, even though she was 102 at the time. He will never forget the way she treated him as part of her family, bringing him closer to his mother's cultural roots than he had ever felt before.
Watch the video below, which is a tribute to her life as a national treasure and her ordeals before and after death.
Tony Coolidge visits Yaki Vinai in Wufeng during filming of 'Voices in the Clouds.' She immediately accepted him as part of her family.
Chen Yu-chu (Chu Yu Coolidge-Bourff) died on May 8, 1994 at the age of 43.
Chen Yu-Chu was born in Wulai village near Taipei City, Taiwan to a family of 10 children on October 8, 1951. Although the people in her village of Wulai were of Atayal tribal descent, and even though her ancestors were from a distinguished line of mayors, police chiefs, and Atayal chieftains, Yu-chu, herself, did not identify with her Atayal ancestry. She grew up in a time that was a struggle for most indigenous people in Taiwan, when government policy and public perception was that the indiegnous people were second-class citizens. She finished elementary school, but like many teenagers, she had to seek work to survive. As many indigenous women did during the time when the U.S. military was based in Taiwan, Chen Yu-chu met and married an American serviceman, David Coolidge. She started a new life in a foreign land (The United States of America) not knowing the language, and started a family with three children.
The Coolidge children grew up not knowing much about Taiwan or their mother's culture. It is not known if Yu-chu just did not know much about it, herself, or if she intentionally hid her culture and past from her children. They lost their mother to cancer when she was only 43 years old, and left her eldest son, Tony Coolidge with a lot of unanswered questions. It was his burning curiosity that attracted him to return to Taiwan to discover the culture and meet the relatives he did not know. What he discovered mystified him and charmed him. Why would his mother hide this amazing indigenous culture from him, and why did it seem that the indigenous people themselves were hiding from it? The trip opened much bigger questions, and Tony Coolidge soon started his efforts to find out and share what he learned with the rest of the world through the ATAYAL organization and its projects.
Tony cannot bring his mother back, but the ATAYAL mission is the best way he knows how to honor her spirit and give her the pride in her culture that she didn't feel the freedom to express. He only wishes his mother could have experienced being in the presence of an Atayal elder like Yaki Vinai, and basked in her warm, loving spirit.
Chen Yu-chu and her first son Tony Coolidge in early 1968.
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