George and Helen Gabriel, Pallette Ranch, have been named the 2012 Chief Joseph Days Grand Marshall at last night’s CJD Coronation event.
George Gabriel first came to the Northwest for the first time in 1969, at the invitation of a friend to participate on an elk hunt in an area called Imnaha in Oregon. Coming from the flatlands of Louisiana, he fell in love with Joseph, the mountains and all the stunning views. The hunt originated at the Pallette Ranch on the Inmaha River, this became another place he fell in love with. He came again and again thru the years. In 1977-78 when the Pallette Ranch came up for sale, rather than let it go to strangers and be unable to visit again, George and his friend purchased the ranch. The idea of having the ranch and the freedom to come whenever he wanted was a dream come true.
In 1979, for the first time, he brought his wife Helen to Oregon, she fell in love with Joseph and Wallowa County too. (Something that worried George, since Helen is from a totally urban environment – NYC). Thru the 80?s, they began coming to Joseph as often as possible, though in the early years – the visits were only for a few days. They maintained, for a while, a small apartment above the Gold Room and Cowboy Bar. In this same time period, they purchased the Indian Lodge Motel and finally a home on Alder Slope. All this to create deeper roots in Joseph and Oregon. They made friends and became involved and supported community activities, like the Joseph Library and Imnaha School. With George’s grandmother being Cherokee, a large part of their support was and is to the Nez Perce community for the establishment of the Nez Perce PowWow & Friendship Feast/Tamkaliks in Wallowa.
Working full time on the East Coast and building up the company, the Gabriels continued to come to Joseph as often as possible, for longer periods of time. The Pallette Ranch is maintained by George’s nephew Bill and Debbie Bradley. Thru the years it has held many hunt trips, family, friends and business gatherings. The cookhouse, kitchen and baths were open for rental by anyone wishing to stay on the Imnaha. In recent years, the ranch rentals were discontinued due to “hotel/motel” rules and taxes and after 27 years of ownership, they sold the Indian Lodge Motel in 2007.
Today the ranch is used by George & Helen, family and friends from all around the country, Wallowa and Union Counties as a place to visit or as a retreat. A quiet haven where that coveted “peace and quiet” reign supreme – most of the time! The Gabriels joy in returning to Oregon is as strong as ever, the friends, acquaintances and family gained thru the years have added a deeper dimension to their time in Joseph. They still delight in returning as often as possible for as long as possible.
George is now 82. He is still working, something he loves to do, but now on the horizon is the possibility of coming to Joseph with no time limit on the horizon!