Home is where the heart is. Most people say it, but Gabriel has lived it. Though he is draped in a wealth of indigenous silver and stones, an abundance of material possessions that would tie him down are thus far not in his already rich life story that is comprised instead of multiple clans, collectives and resurrections, none of which cramp his “style.” At the age of seven, Gabriel’s parents sold their home and shares in the health insurance company that his father worked for and traveled up and down both American coasts two times and then to Cuba, Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada and Alaska for three years with Gabriel, his brothers and their dog. A former commercial fisherman, Gabriel’s father had to take a desk job when he met Gabriel’s mom, who was afraid of the water. Years later, his mom dreamt of a witch pointing at the ocean, which she took as a sign that she had to overcome her fears.
Experiencing a place like Cuba at an impressionable age left Gabriel indelibly instilled with the idea that you don’t need a lot to be happy and even when you are told that you can’t be yourself, you can still find a way. He recently quit modeling after one of his first jobs with Bruce Weber for French Vogue because he couldn’t deal with other people trying to dress him. Gabriel is very particular about going for the real McCoy when it comes to his uniform of cowboy boots, vintage bandanas, wife beaters and Levi’s, all of which reflect his zeal for engaging authentically in this world. Once back in his Washington state hometown after living at sea, while most others during pre-adolescence were “finding” themselves on Facebook (he still doesn’t have one), Gabriel started taking part in Native American ceremonies like sweat lodges (which is about going back into the womb, cleansing yourself and being reborn), pipe smoking and pow wows. At twelve, Gabriel was adopted by ceremony into the Omaha tribe through the Making of Relatives, where, if you love someone as family and they love you as family, you can publicly name them as such. Essentially, Gabriel has the good fortune of having acquired another set of parents of Native American descent, whose crests are tattooed prominently on his left ankle, along with the moon and stars of his adopted deer clan and a wolf for his wolf family.
The UT tattoo on Gabriel’s left forearm stands for urban tribe and commemorates a portion of Gabriel’s adolescence in which he was involved with putting on hip hop shows, rapping and playing with GZA from the Wu-Tang Clan, Hieroglyphics, AC Alone and Abstract Rude. Fast forward to Gabriel’s time spent in New York City, and possibly the definitive kinship for him to date is that of his band Dog Soldier Society, which was formed when he was part of Collective Hardware, an artist colony on The Bowery. The band’s first song, “Fire on the Bowery,” which was not about a physical fire but the passion and dedication to making something outstanding and beautiful, eerily foretold the burning down of The Collective and all of Gabriel’s belongings along with it. He was left homeless once again with just the clothes on his back, including all of his traditional pow wow dancer regalia, eagle feathers, hooves, a bustle, a staff, a wing fan and art.
The actual Dog Soldiers are a Cheyenne warrior society that went into battle with a sash of rope tied around their waist and three arrows, which are tattooed on Gabriel’s right forearm. They’d pin the rope into the ground and when the battle started they could only fight as far as the rope would let them go, like a dog tied to a leash. The symbolism of the ritual was that there was no surrender, simply victory or death. You weren’t able to retreat and that was your chunk of land. “That’s the way we try to live with this band – no retreat, no surrender, victory or death,” Gabriel says. “I prefer to make my connections with a smile and a handshake and a hug or through my music.” Of his new leather jacket, Gabriel explains that he bought it along with a whole new vintage wardrobe so that he could hold his new nephew, Ira Joaquin Friedman, whose birthday – the eighth of the third month, in the eleventh year – is represented in a tattoo in honor of his bloodline: “He’s the first of the new generation.”