New York City, NY – May 21, 2004 – The founder of the 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, ATAYAL (www.atayal.org), concluded a visit to the United Nations in New York City on May 20, 2004. The trip was a major turning point for his organization and provided him a significant opportunity to speak for the indigenous people of Taiwan.
During a trip to Washington DC for a leadership training weekend hosted by Landmark Education, Tony Coolidge worked on expanding his self-expression and global leadership. He shared about an event he created called the Indigenous Heritage Festival (www.indigenousfestival.org), which will invite tribal participants from around the world to Orlando, Florida. Almost immediately, he was invited by Ms. Swati Save to be spontaneous, travel to New York, and attend the third session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the United Nations.
"I was presented an opportunity I could not refuse, given my commitment to indigenous issues," stated the founder. "It was totally spontaneous and unreasonable, but I have learned through my training that amazing results are produced by being unreasonable. I didn't know where I was going to stay or how I was going to get there, but within an hour, everything fell into place." Tony made arrangements to take a train from Washington DC to New York to begin his adventure.
Ms. Swati Save was attending the forum representing the Warli indigenous tribe of India as well as the Indian Young Professional Foundation. She made arrangements for Tony Coolidge to participate in the forum as a guest of an NGO and introduced him to many participants. With her help, he met with dozens of tribal leaders from around the world. He also spent considerable time with the tribal delegation from Taiwan. This delegation included Skaya Xigu of the Truku tribe, Pei-Shan Juan of the Paiwan tribe, Yawai Hagao of the Atayal tribe, and Carlmoden Chris of the Bunun tribe.
"It was my pleasure to bond with my brothers and sisters from Taiwan and share in a collective voice for our people," he expressed.
Being in the middle of the United Nations session provided opportunities for Tony Coolidge to speak to groups of attendees. He spoke about his event to a side event meeting hosted by the Asian Caucus. He was invited to speak on a panel on the issues of indigenous youth in Dag Hammarskjold Library Auditorium in the United Nations building. Tony, along with two other Taiwanese tribal representatives expressed the challenges facing the young indigenous Taiwanese in the modern world. A group of tribal leaders were invited to attend a strategic planning meeting hosted by Cultural Survival Magazine, which is a leading publication involving indigenous world issues. Tony shared his point of view about indigenous issues in Taiwan and was invited to write an article for the magazine.
He proudly stated, "I was honored to represent the indigenous people of Taiwan as well as my homeland in a place where the world is listening. I feel like I was able to provide a voice that was heard. I plan to return each year and work hard to add the voice of my people to the collective world voice of indigenous peoples."
On behalf of ATAYAL, two resolutions were presented to the chairperson of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The first resolution proposed a partnership with the Indigenous Heritage Festival to provide a structure for indigenous self-expression and empowerment. The second resolution proposed the donation of an exhibit of photography depicting the disappearing facial tattoo culture of the Atayal tribe of Taiwan for permanent display at the United Nations building. The photographer is Kuei-shih Tien from Hualien, Taiwan.
Tony Coolidge intends to return to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues each year to share the views and issues concerning the indigenous tribes of Taiwan. He plans to spend the next year reaching out to indigenous leaders and expanding his knowledge of indigenous issues.
The United Nations General Assembly declared the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People to begin December 10, 1994. The assembly of nations did so to strengthen international cooperation in solving the problems faced by indigenous peoples in areas such as human rights, the environment, development, education and health. The United Nations has increasingly taken up the cause for the world's indigenous people, who are considered among the world's most disadvantaged groups. The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was established on July 28, 2000 by the Economic and Social Council, on the recommendation of the Commission on Human Rights. This Forum meets annually to discuss indigenous issues.
The International Decade of the World's Indigenous People comes to a close this year, and August 9, 2004 will be the last International Day of the World's Indigenous People. The initiative taken on by the United Nations has raised international awareness and created a permanent forum for discussion.
"The foundation has been laid. It is now up to people and organizations in the world to continue efforts for cultural preservation and appreciation, providing the indigenous people the ability to thrive and express their culture," said Tony. "With so many indigenous cultures in so many countries that have limited resources and unstable political situations, many indigenous cultures may soon be lost forever. It is the privilege of people with resources to share their blessings to make a difference in the world."
Tony stated with a sense of urgency, "If people ask why they should care, they should consider this. The indigenous people have wisdom and knowledge collected over thousands of years that can benefit all of mankind. For example, many have knowledge of cures for many illnesses using plants only known to them. Much of this knowledge only exists in their spoken language that is passed down from generation to generation. It is predicted by the academic community that if nothing is done, within ten years, half of the thousands of indigenous languages will disappear, along with much of their knowledge. Who knows what miracles mankind will miss out on?"
The ATAYAL organization created the Indigenous Heritage Festival to raise awareness and appreciation in the United States for indigenous cultures of the world. This event was created as an opportunity for indigenous peoples of the world as well as for American communities hosting the event. Indigenous performers, artists and filmmakers will have a venue for valuable exposure for their cultures and countries. Visitors of the event will be provided an opportunity to have face-to-face interaction with cultures most have only been able to read about in books.
There are at least 5,000 indigenous groups made up of 300 million people that live in more than 70 countries on five continents. They represent approximately 4% of the world's population.
"The Indigenous Heritage Festival and will make a difference for these groups by providing opportunities for expression and prosperity, and ultimately... survival," says the founder of ATAYAL. "This event is a gift from the indigenous people of the world to communities around America. I am looking for additional support for the event to give more indigenous people of the world the opportunity to participate and make a difference for their culture." The festival is a joint effort of several organizations, including the Taiwanese Students Association at the University of Central Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
The ATAYAL organization was founded in 2000 after Tony Coolidge discovered his heritage originated from the Atayal tribe of Taiwan. His mother did not share her background and culture with him, so when he traveled to Taiwan after her death to discover his heritage, he was surprised and inspired. He formed his organization to honor his mother and his heritage, and he is committed to educating Americans about the indigenous culture of Taiwan. The ATAYAL organization fulfills its mission by hosting cultural events as well as producing documentary films.
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