Waila Festival, Inc.

1413 E. Hammond Lane
Phoenix, AZ 85034

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Major Sponsors:

Gila River Indian Community Ak-Chin Indian Community
Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Tohono O'odham Nation

Wild Horse Pass Development Authority

Desert Diamond Casinos & Entertainment - West Valley

Gila River Sand & Gravel Corp.




To assist students of the Four Sister Tribes (Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Gila River Indian Community, Ak-Chin Indian Community, Tohono O’odham Nation) by providing additional financial support and cultural awareness to encourage them to excel in their pursuit of higher education.  Waila Festival, Inc. will strive to enhance their education and cultural environment through the Sister Tribe Academic Reward Scholarship (STAR Scholarship) and other support programs in order to motivate academic success to empower them to become greater assets to their Communities.  In addition, we will help to preserve the Arts, Culture & Traditions of our Indigenous People whenever possible by supporting Native American artists, musicians, dancers and singers through our various events.

Waila Festival, Inc. is a Community Based Organization that is derived from the O’odham Waila Festival which was born out of a desire to help preserve the traditional Waila Music & Dance of the O’odham Communities.  While attending one of the many festivals, Cecil Lewis & Matt Kisto from the Gila River Indian Community were discussing how the Waila Music was slowly fading and they really enjoyed listening to the old songs at dances.  They both missed the old sound that they grew up with and thought that the younger generations might not have the opportunity to appreciate what had been such a strong tradition in the Community.

They began talking about the possibility of creating a new festival devoted to the Waila Tradition.  Over time Cecil & Matt spoke Waila 2012with other Community Members about their concerns and gained support in their idea.  Since Matt was the president of the Gila River Business Owners Association (GRBOA) at the time, he brought the proposal to start a Waila Festival in the Community to the GRBOA.  The members of the GRBOA thought it would be a worthwhile effort and began organizing the 1st Annual O’odham Waila Festival in 2011.

It was decided that the Rawhide Steakhouse - Frontier Hall would be an ideal location for the event, and a collaborative effort was put forth to make it happen.  Spearheaded by GRBOA members Matt Kisto, Danelle Spring, Anthony Newkirk and Russell Blackwater, the event began to take shape.  Many other Community Members took part as a planning committee and many volunteers helped to make the 1st Annual Waila Festival a success.  With over 300 people in attendance to listen and dance to the music of four Waila Bands, the twelve hour event brought smiles to everyone.

This Annual Waila Festival has continued over the years as an Alcohol/Drug Free Family Oriented Event that is free to the public.  The event has grown with the addition of volunteers from the Four Sister Tribe Communities who have sought Waila 2012 to improve the Waila Festival. In 2013 there were nearly 1000 people in attendance. This prompted the organizers to seize the opportunity to do more for their Communities. In 2014 Waila Festival, Inc. was incorporated as a 501 (C)(3) nonprofit organizaiton to provide academic scholarships to students of the Four Sister Tribes (Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Gila River Indian Community, Ak-Chin Indian Community, Tohono O'odham Nation) who are pursuing a higher education and to offer other programs to support academic success and leadership. This development of the Waila Festival was the brainchild of Craig Lewis, the group's technical advisor and a member of the Gila River Indian Community who had previously worked with a non-profit organization as Marketing Director. He researched tirelessly to create all the documents needed to incorporate Waila Festival, Inc. and establish the STAR Scholarship that is now given out to O'odham students at the annual WailaFest.

The Sister Tribes Academic Reward Scholarship (STAR Scholarship) was created to provide additional financial support for the higher education of our students within the state of Arizona.  It is an academic scholarship designed to promote academic excellence among our students.  This scholarship is now available to students of the Four Sister Tribes.

Waila Festival, Inc. was also created to help preserve the O’odham & Piipaash cultures.  Not only by continuing to produce the Annual Waila Festival, but to help support community efforts to preserve O’odham & Piipaash Traditions within the Four Sister Tribe Communities.  This will be done by featuring Traditional Performers at their events throughout the year and by providing assistance to grass roots efforts to preserve the Traditions.

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Corporate Sponsors
Source One Distributors Lone Butte Development Corporation Native American Advancement Foundation Rawhide Western Town & Steakhouse
KOHN Radio FM 91.9

Tohono O'odham Utility Authority

Ak-Chin Farms

Gila River Telecommunications, Inc.

Gila River Indian Community Utility Authority Drumbeat Indian Arts Pimmex General Contracting Ramona Farms Roberta's Corner Kitchen Mobile Nations Technology Gente de I'itoi AC VMK Enterprises, Inc. Native Dezine Printz
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