Waila Festival brings scholarships

December 4, 2015


Roberto A. Jackson, GRIN


The mission of Waila Festival, Inc. is to provide financial support for students of the four tribes of the Gila River Indian Community, Tohono O’odham Nation, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and Ak-Chin Indian Community while preserving the traditions of waila music.  That mission was accomplished on Saturday Nov. 28 at the WailaFest 2015 to the tune of 8 scholarships given out to students during a special ceremony at the Rawhide Western Town & Steakhouse - Frontier Hall, which also featured four waila bands and other traditional presentations. 


The WailaFest has been going on for five years, bringing the best in chicken scratch music to the four O’otham tribes, but this year it included the Sister Tribe Academic Reward (STAR) Scholarship. 


“That’s our mission to help the youth and be able to award scholarships every year from here on,” said Matt Kisto, Executive Director of Waila Festival Inc., which is a non-profit organization formed by members of the Gila River Business Owners Association and the Waila Festival Planning Committee.


While bands played indoors from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., vendors, artists and other cultural presentations were located on the Sonoran Lawn just west of the Frontier Hall. The Circle of Art and Culture included presentations from O’otham, Pee Posh, Hopi, Apache and Mexican indigenous groups.


Raquel Romero, a first generation college student, was encouraged to apply to the scholarship by her advisor.  “This [money] will help next semester funding college,” said Romero, an undergraduate Anthropology student at Arizona State University.


Steven Save, Pee Posh, also received a scholarship. Save is looking ahead to a bright future. “I would like to come back and work for my community,” said Save, a student at South Mountain Community College.


Waila Festival Inc. is looking forward  to having more festivals and giving out more assistance to students. They were thankful for the support from all the O’otham sister tribes and the enterprises and entities within the tribes who made the scholarships possible.