May 24, 2022

RSJ Spotlight: Idella King

Racial & Social Justice Partner Spotlight Series

Each month we will be spotlighting an organization or individual in our community who is putting in the work to create real and lasting change for a more equitable Spokane.

Our Racial & Social Justice Partner Spotlight this May is Idella King and the Red Skirt Society.


5 minute read


Idella with Daughter Tanisha Rattler at Gonzaga University’s Urban Arts Center “No More Stolen Sisters” May 4, 2022

What roles do you serve in the community and what are your titles?

Idella King is an enrolled member of the Northern Arapaho Nation. She serves as a Student Diversion Specialist for Spokane Public Schools by day and a matriarch in training by night. She mentors students and provides pathways to healing through cultural teachings. As a matriarch in training and head Sun Dance cook, she helps care for and feed those in her family, whether they’re tied to her by blood, spirit, or community. 

Idella is also a founding member of the Red Skirt Society, a group of Native women activists who share their stories and bring awareness to the cause of missing and murdered Indigenous people. 

What mission or vision guides your work?

When Idella lost her younger sister in 2004, no one investigated. Her sister had attempted to leave her abusive partner but unfortunately was unable to reach a safe location as planned. While she was dealing with this loss, new wounds were opened because her family didn’t get closure in knowing how it happened. 

After Idella nearly lost her own life to a domestic violence situation, she had a new start in life. When her life was saved and she was able to start the healing process through learning about healing, grief, and so much more. Her life changed; she had a purpose in her Creator to give back. 

How do you live out this mission?

Idella lives out her mission by mentoring others in her community and creating relationships in formerly oppressive places. Sometimes it’s difficult but worth it to share her message and purpose with the world. She serves as an advocate for others, creating hope whenever she has the opportunity. 

With her degree in Native studies and her experiences, she helped set up a transitional housing center called Bridges Village in Pierce County. This transitional housing center was focused on caring for Native women and children. While it was open to all, the programming was geared towards the Native population with cultural teachings about the medicine wheel and Indigenous healing practices. 

As an ambitious young woman from the reservation and freshly graduated from college, she proved her worth to her boss quickly by bringing in funding from donors through her passionate voice. Her boss in this transitional housing program became a mentor to her, teaching her to network in the professional world while utilizing her knowledge and experience. 

She worked at the Healing Lodge of the 7 Nations, an adolescent treatment program, for several years helping connect young people to healing through cultural knowledge and values. Today, she continues mentoring young people and connecting them with their culture. As an advocate for equity, she works to build cross-cultural solidarity working with groups of students to help them connect with their own culture and get empowered through a strong sense of identity and community. 

How long have you been doing this work and what drew you in?

Idella is a part of the Womans War Bonnet Society of the Blackfeet Nation. This is rare, especially since she became one at a young age. War Bonnets are sacred, and they have their own spirits. Leading up to the 2016 Women’s March, Idella began having dreams about her war bonnet being at the march. She felt the bonnet was calling her to that space, so she joined her mother, Deborah (Stiffarm) Rattler and went to the march. She felt that once she was there, the bonnet would guide her on what she needed to do. She even called her parents before going to confirm that it was a good idea; they told her that this is why she has the war bonnet, she needed to use it. 

When Idella arrived at the march she did not see any Native women outside of her group. She realized there wasn’t a lot of representation there, and there were no Indigenous speakers scheduled. A beautiful Native woman, Dr. Renee Holt, with a ribbon skirt and combat boots approached them telling them that they were going to make their way inside through the crowd. They followed her with their war bonnets on their backs. When they got inside, they felt called to put on their bonnets. 

Dr. Renee Holt, Deborah (Stiffarm) Rattler, Vanessa Buamgardner-Hurt and Idella King at the 2016 Womans March at Spokane Convention Center

The woman led them up close to the stage. She told Idella that she had gotten her in the lineup and would be speaking. Suddenly, Idella and her mom found themselves onstage in their war bonnets, sharing a land acknowledgement together. Idella’s mom spoke about the importance of access to clean drinking water in solidarity with Standing Rock. Idella shared about missing and murdered Indigenous people for the first time. She had healed enough to see the injustice, and was finally ready and able to share her story. Able to distance herself  from Montana where her trauma happened helped: it made her feel safer to share and stand in solidarity with others who have lost loved ones. 

After speaking, the group of women went outside and found a larger group of Indigenous women. Together they led the march. This was the first of a wave of women’s marches led by Indigenous women across the country, it happened in Spokane first. After the march, they got food together, and began organizing to end the normalization of missing and murdered Indigenous people. Ever since, this group has continued organizing as the Red Skirt Society to educate and activate around missing and murdered Indigenous folks. 

Today, Idella continues to share her story alongside others in her family and community. She has had the unique opportunity to speak from a multi-generational perspective alongside her mother Deborah (Stiffarm) Rattler and daughter Tanisha Rattler at various speaking engagements. 

Idella wants others to know that the experiences she had are not unique to her family, but impact many Indigenous families across the nation. Everyone has a story of a loved one lost to violence, even if they didn’t come from a broken or violent home. This loss should not be the norm; Idella and the other people of the Red Skirt Society work together to raise awareness and end the violence. 

What are 3 words to describe yourself or your work?

Hopeful, fearless, and loving. The fearless part Idella is still trying to live out, but she is gaining more strength in this every day as she continues to grow. 

Start of the Womens March in 2016, Spokane, Washington Indigenous Women leading in the march

How can folks get involved or support you?

Idella encourages others to help spread awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous people. Keep an eye out for young people around you to keep them safe. We can help change the norm of missing people for Indigenous families in our community. 

There are over 300 tribal nations represented in our school district alone, we have to work together across nations and cultures to build relationships that promote justice and healing. Idella encourages everyone to learn more about Native culture and strengthen Indigenous identity, this power and knowledge can help heal all people, helping them connect with who they are and their humanity.

Idella also encourages others to become healing-informed mentors in the spaces where they are called, helping to build restorative relationships where harms have happened.


YWCA Spokane’s Racial & Social Justice Committee

Our vision is to strive to be a consistently accurate resource for information on racial, ethnic, and cultural awareness to promote diversity, equity, and inclusivity in employment, in business practices, and in the care and services provided throughout the communities we serve.  For 2022, the RSJ Committee is focusing on

  • Community Partnerships
    • Enhance outreach efforts to community partners and liaisons to share ideas, support each other with action, and solidify connections. View the list of our RSJ Partners.
  • Events
    • Develop and host or co-host events to connect various groups of community members to share and understand each other’s stories. Events include movie nights, Stand Against Racism, equity & growth Challenge, and Transformations Camp for youth.
  • Education & Training
    • Provide training to YWCA staff, board of directors, mission partners and the community to allow awareness of subconscious thoughts or attitudes that affect our perceptions about people, the decisions we make, and the impact on our community.

Join the conversation with our Facebook Group and learn more about our RSJ Committee here.

CHECK OUT OUR PREVIOUS SPOTLIGHTS

If you or someone you know should have their advocacy work highlighted through our RSJ Spotlight series, please email our equity coordinator, larae@ywcaspokane.org.

By: Rachel Dannen

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