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'The more we can grow, the better': Dillingham hosts second annual Pride march

Brian Venua

June is National LGBTQ+ Pride month, a time to remember the Stonewall Uprising in 1969 in New York and to reflect on gay rights. Many, like the Pride organizers in Dillingham, use the time to celebrate identity and acceptance. Participants marched from the city boat harbor to the Salmon Tsunami mural downtown on Saturday.

Desi Bond, one of the organizers, said she wants to make sure the community of participants and allies keeps growing.

“I want to make it an annual thing,” Bond said. “Last year, I was able to do it through a position I held and this year, I just did it as a volunteer. It's just near and dear to my heart, it's important to have everyone included and everyone accepted in our community.”

The march isn’t the only pride-related event this month — the library is also highlighting LGTBQ+ books and authors. Event organizers set a table to give away free shirts, buttons, and beverages at the harbor. Bond hopes to grow community participation and host more events in the future like a barbecue or even marches in other villages.

“The more we can grow, the better,” Bond said. “I looked for grant funding, and I wasn't able to find any, so I partnered with amazing people with SAFE (Safe and Fear-Free Environment) and BBNA (Bristol Bay Native Association) and the hospital and they were able to get all the stuff that we have here for all the participants. So I think that we're able to collaborate well and we'll be able to make it a region wide effort.”

Amber Webb was one attendee who designed a flag with specific references to local culture for Saturday’s march.

“I used some of the story knife symbols for a river and person and tried to really personalize that design with some fish in there,” Webb said.

The design is meant to reflect the values of acceptance in Native culture.

“I thought it was really important to acknowledge that you put culture was not prejudice, prejudiced,” she said. “We were accepting and welcoming and everyone had a role. And it's really, really important to remember that.”

Some of the symbols include references to the Seven Sisters, the local environment, and fish.

“Love in Yup’ik isn't just romantic,” said Webb. “Kenkamken is like a way of being, it's not just a word or thoughts. It's not just I love you — it's living with love.”

One participant, Shelley Wickstrom, lived in and was a pastor in Dillingham from 1987-1994. She said in a speech to the crowd the community has always had diversity, but that diversity has not always been honored or welcomed.

“I used to live in Dillingham from 87 through 94,” Wickstrom said. “This would not have happened then. It should have happened. So thanks for being together today. Be loud. Be proud. You're seen, you’re heard, we're together.”

Bond said she has hope that the youth can continue a culture of love and acceptance.

“Especially for the younger generation, I don’t want anyone to feel less than, I don’t want them to feel not worthy,” she said. “You’re accepted, you’re loved, there’s so many allies, so many amazing people here, just be kind. That’s the biggest thing.”

More information about Dillingham Pride can be found on their Facebook, DLG Pride Group.

Contact the author at brian@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.

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