September 16, 2020

2020 WOA Government & Public Service Award Honoree

Maria Cullooyah

2020 Women of Achievement Honoree

~ Government & Public Service Award ~

Congratulations Maria!

Thank You For Living Out YWCA Spokane’s Mission

At a young age, Maria understood a working knowledge of business and entrepreneurship to be key when achieving success in life. Maria’s biggest role models, her mother and late grandmother, encouraged her to get an education and return to the tribe to share her knowledge and expertise to help her community move forward. She did just that.

Maria is a Spokane Tribal member. Her parents are Francis Cullooyah, Kalispel Tribal elder, and Raymond & Valerie Peone, Spokane Tribal elders. With five biological children, 3 she has taken as her own, and 2 beautiful grandchildren, Maria pursued a degree in Native American Studies from Eastern Washington University then transferred to receive her bachelor’s and an MBA from the University of Phoenix. For the last 12 years, Maria worked for the Spokane Tribe in the planning and economic development department in various capacities. Currently, Maria works as the Director of real estate development for the Spokane Tribe of Indians and seeks to enfranchise and better the living conditions of her entire community of people who have been traditionally shut out of many mainstream development opportunities due to systemic racism.

Maria is also the Assistant Director of Planning and Economic Development. She is a woman leader both within her native community as well as in the broader community and serves as a role model for generations of women to come. Serving on boards within her community and Spokane, WA, she has continued to gain experience and able to analyze and implement missions and goals.

Maria told the Journal she continues to be inspired by Spokane Tribal Chairwoman Carol Evans, the first female to have served in the role. “I had a lot of role models growing up, and the biggest thing they taught me was that you can’t sit and wait for things to happen,” she says. “You have to go for what you want and make things happen.”

Maria has developed multiple business ventures on behalf of her tribal government. She has played a key role in several community projects including the designation of the Tribe as a federal Promise Zone, Opportunity Zone and the revitalization of the city of Wellpinit. In addition, she helped facilitate the Children of the Sun Solar Initiative which was designed to provide 650 kilowatts of solar capacity, and eventually battery storage, to tribal homes and businesses that will save more than $2.8 million in energy costs over 35 years.

Maria was also a part of a national project known as the Learning/Action Lab for Community Wealth Building that began in 2013. Funded by the Northwest Area Foundation, this program fostered a peer learning cohort involving five Native organizations, including the Spokane Tribe which lasted until 2018.

Maria is unwavering in her commitment to creating real and lasting change in our community. As a member and employee of the Spokane Tribe, Maria was a part of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) during 2018 and 2019, now known as Common Future, that centered around issues of community wealth building and leadership development. Maria has represented the region at national alternative economic development conferences, and was a founding board member of SIMBA, the Spokane Independent Metro Business Alliance which organizes to create a more equitable and inclusive local economy.

Maria is known to be tough as nails and to never give up. She possesses a quiet leadership style and often does not receive recognition for her efforts due to her reserved nature. She is an authentic and transparent leader who doesn’t hide who she is as a mother and community member while in her formal roles of leadership.

Maria has a keen ability to help people navigate uncertainty and doubt with grace. Even when Maria has had to address her own family members being impacted by the scourges of drugs and alcohol that plague her people, Maria continues to show up for herself, and her community at large in order to push the envelope for greater economic prosperity and inclusion for her tribe. At YWCA Spokane, we are truly honored to celebrate the work and accomplishments of Maria Cullooyah, 2020 Women of Achievement award honoree for Government and Public Service.


A two month celebration of those who live out YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women.

This campaign will honor our 2020 Women of Achievement award winners and invite the community to take YWCA’s Learn & Give challenge focused on inspiring change during Domestic Violence Action Month.

September 1st through October 31st, 2020, YWCA’s ONE MISSION campaign will serve to celebrate women leaders in our community, raise awareness about the compounded experiences of domestic violence survivors, and look to raise $275,000. Proceeds raised support YWCA Spokane’s services for domestic violence victims and their children, including emergency shelter, counseling, legal services, job readiness, child care, and Pre-K programs for low income children and their families.

Please join us as we celebrate Maria and the other 2020 award honorees through this new campaign. 

Learn More

Donate in Honor of Our Women of Achievement Award Honorees

Consider making a donation in honor of the outstanding women we acknowledge at this inspiring celebration. As our biggest, most critical fundraiser of the year, the Women of Achievement Awards benefit our programs and services directly, allowing our reach to grow further and our mission to be realized. Simply put, we cannot do this work without you!


About YWCA Spokane

For 117 years, YWCA Spokane has been helping women and children overcome social, economic, and personal barriers in order to accomplish their goals and achieve healthier and more fulfilling lives. Today, areas of focus include supporting victims of intimate partner domestic violence, promoting early childhood education, and confronting racial and social justice issues that negatively impact our clients and our community.

In 2019, YWCA served over 17,000 women, children, and families. Services include a continuum of wrap-around support: 24-hour Helpline and Safe Shelter, Counseling Center, Mental Health Services, Child Advocacy, Civil Legal Assistance, Legal Advocacy, and Economic Empowerment Advocacy. YWCA’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) provides 3- and 4-year-old children with the social and learning skills necessary for successful entry into kindergarten.

By working at the intersections of inequality, poverty, and domestic violence, YWCA Spokane is able to disrupt longstanding societal patterns of trauma. To learn more, take a look at our 2019 annual impact report.


This awards celebration would not be possible without the incredible support of our 2020 sponsors. To learn more about sponsorship opportunities contact Dana Morris Lee, YWCA Spokane Chief Philanthropy Officer, at or call 509-742-0111.




2020 Mission Partner


Innovation SPONSOR






Corporate Sponsors

Columbia Bank

Global Credit Union

The Spokesman-Review

To learn more about sponsorship opportunities contact Dana Morris Lee, YWCA Spokane Chief Philanthropy Officer, at or call 509-742-0111.

By: Erica Schreiber

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