Business owner reworks logo that offends some Native people

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It started with what Dan Pullen thought was the perfect logo — the name of his alternative healing center, Yampa Wellness, with the image of a sacred Indian pipe, or chanupa.

“The logo invoked what we were really trying to be, which is a healing center in Boulder that also offers referrals for medical marijuana,” Pullen says. “From there, that was developed, and the name came with that.”

Yampa means “big medicine” or “big wellness” in the Ute language, he says.

“I thought it was important to pull something from Colorado specifically. It seemed appropriate,” he says.

The logo featuring the pipe ran in a series of ads in Boulder Weekly. And almost immediately Pullen began getting calls — but not necessarily the kind of calls he’d hoped for. Some members of the local American Indian community objected to the use of the pipe in a commercial image, and they also objected to its being associated in any way with medical marijuana.

“I got a call the first week,” he says. “I explained to her it didn’t mean anything disrespectful.”

Pullen says a couple of the callers were willing to discuss the issue with him “as adults,” while others were more adamant.

By the second week of his ad campaign, the newspaper had received a handful of complaints from people who identified themselves as American Indian and said the ad was culturally offensive because it included the pipe. The newspaper’s management contacted Pullen to discuss the possibility of changing the logo. Thus began a process of soul-searching for Pullen.

Pullen says he grew up in a family that valued alternative medicine and that he started Yampa Wellness after learning that his brother-in-law, who raised him from the age of 10, had terminal cancer. The center offers chiropractic, Reiki, massage, naturopathic medicine, as well as other forms of healing, including medical marijuana referrals. It is not a medical marijuana dispensary.

“We really are looking for legitimate clients who not only may want to use medical marijuana as an alternative, but who are using our services for their upkeep, their physical management,” he says.

Pullen says the logo with the pipe was the product of a brainstorming session with one of his nephews, a graphic artist, and his business partners.

“In a conversation with our close family ties to the Indian relations, it was definitely understood that [using the image of the pipe] would be a fine thing as long as it was … an artistic take on that,” he says.

Pullen, who says his ancestry includes some Cherokee, was reluctant to change the logo because he felt it represented his business perfectly. At the same time, he wanted to maintain a good relationship with Boulder’s Native community.

“That was the tipping point,” he says. “I wanted to extend good faith to the community by relinquishing that logo, but not without a struggle or a compassionate perspective about why I used it and why I wanted to use it and why it would be appropriate to continue to use it.” Pullen sat down with his business partners again and reworked the logo. It now features a hawk in flight over prairie grass, with a caduceus in the background. He says he doesn’t like this logo as much as he liked the original one, but that he’s committed to this change.

“I’m sticking with it,” he says. “I fought it. I fought it for sure. We may add some aspect of something additionally later, but if you change things too much then people get confused and you’re starting all over again.”

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