COREY KANOSH, Part 1: the Untold Story — PAHVANT COUNTRY GRAPEVINE — by Delta Rose

I’ve had everything from hate mail to terroristic threats lately, but things are finally starting to simmer down a little.  Someone naively suggested that I ought to report the threats to law enforcement.  What good would that do, I responded, when that is where most of it is coming from? But I’ve also received some very nice thank-yous from some surprising quarters.  Between all the reactions I’ve been receiving, I know that what I’ve been writing has been on target, or at least close.  And I think this may actually be one of my most important pieces yet.

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 12.59.29 PMThese days when cops shoot an unarmed person, most of the time they do everything they can to make that person look as bad as possible, and make the shooting victim out to be a really “bad guy.”

To their credit, I don’t necessarily think MCSD did that with Corey Kanosh. if anything, his story remains largely untold. Most people only know Corey’s name and mugshot. For that reason, I intend this to be the first of a multi-part series about Corey and what happened to him. Although I’m not even pretending to tell everything that could be told, in this first part I’m going to focus mostly on trying to tell more of the story of who Corey was.

Perhaps one of the reasons Corey’s story hasn’t been fully told may be because of his checkered past.  But even that is a story worth telling.  I am only aware of one person who has lived a completely unspotted life.  And I haven’t been able to find anything about Corey’s past that could in any way be said to justify what happened to him on October 15, 2012.

You may have noticed I normally refer to almost everyone as Mr. and Ms., but in this case, I’m going Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 12.57.59 PMto take a little different approach with Mr. Corey Kanosh and just refer to and talk about him as Corey. I want to be more personal.  I hope people can come to understand that Corey was not just a name, a face and an object, but he was a person, with a family, a background, and an interesting story.

Corey was born in 1976. He was the second son of Milo Dee Kanosh and Marlene Pikyavit. Before talking about Corey and his immediate family, however, I want to spend a little time exploring his extended family and his Native American Heritage.  Just like Corey, there is an interesting back story about his people that has never been well-told.  In this little treatment, I don’t pretend to tell it well, but I’m also not going to simply ignore it.

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 1.03.41 PM Corey was one of the descendents of the renowned Pahvant Ute Chief Kanosh (1821-1884), after whom the town of Kanosh was named, and after whom Corey received his own family name.

Last week, in my high school pecking order piece, I talked about the importance of perspective.  If you want to really get a taste of the difference “perspective” can make, it is worth studying history from different points of view. As Winston Churchill said “history is written by the victors.” With that in mind, I wanted to see what conventional “White” history says about Corey’s people. Based on research of those sources, this is what I learned:

Chief Kanosh was a leader of the Pahvant Utes.  He was a half brother of the infamous Ute Chief Wakara who is believed to be buried on the West face of the Pahvant Mountains, under the Pig above Meadow, not far from the Kanosh Indian Reservation. When Mormon pioneers first came to Utah and explored the area, the Kanosh band had a major camp at Corn Creek. Chief Kanosh spoke Ute, Paiute, Spanish, and eventually English, and is remembered for having been “friendly toward early Mormon Pioneer settlers.” He invited the Mormons to come and settle in his area where they eventually founded the town of Kanosh. He represented the Pahvant Utes at the signing of a treaty with Brigham Young which signaled the end of the Walker War in 1854, and was among the Utes who took up farming. Chief Kanosh joined the LDS Church and was baptized in 1858. In 1864 he was ordained an elder, and he was one of the very earliest Native Americans to receive his endowments. Chief Kanosh met with Brigham Young on September 1, 1857 to discuss strategy in relation to the Utah War with the Federal government. One of his wives was Sally, a Southern Paiute who had been raised in Young’s household. This relationship was a key part of the reason why the Kanosh band worked so closely with the Mormons. Another of his wives was a Paiute named Mary, who had been raised by an LDS family in Payson. While Chief Kanosh’s other three wives lived in wikiups, he built a regular cabin for Mary. Chief Kanosh and his fellow Pahvants were the only large group of Utes who did not participate in the Black Hawk War. In 1884, Chief Kanosh died and was buried near Kanosh, the town that was named after him.

That is the standard “White” history version.  What I have learned is that there is another side of the whole story about Mormon treatment of the Native Americans they encountered in Utah that appears to have been largely ignored. The story of what really happened between the Mormons and the Indians appears to be a lot like the story about what happened in the Mountain Meadow Massacre (which was also blamed on the Indians), but the rest of the story about how the Native Americans were treated is even less well known. If you are truly interested in studying the other side of this story, I highly recommend The Black Hawk War: Utah’s Forgotten Tragedy, as told by Phillip B. Gottfredson, at  Gottredson’s treatment includes the history of Chief Black Hawk, the Black Hawk War, and is offered as an alternative view to the other side of the story about how Native Americans were treated by the early Mormon settlers in Utah. Because the contrast between these versions is so stark, I’m going to include a very brief summary of that account as well.

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According to Gottfredson,  in an interview with the interpreter M.S. Martenas, the Ute Chief Wakara (Kanosh’s half brother), said this:

 “the Mormons when they first commenced the settlement of Salt Lake Valley, were friendly, and promised [us] many comforts, and lasting friendship—[and] they continued friendly for a short time, until they became strong in numbers, then their conduct and treatment towards the Indians changed—sometimes [the Indians] have been treated with much severity—settlements have been made on all their hunting grounds in the valleys, and the graves of their fathers have been torn up by the whites.”

Gottredson’s overall conclusion regarding the Mormons’ treatment of Native Americans is summed-up as follows:

“Native Americans in Utah were subjected to deceit, dishonesty, torture, mass butchery, rape, and death, death to others, to animals, plants, to the waters, and the land. Indigenous men, women, and children were left to wonder alone in a land they believed belonged to them for eternity. A people who in their final agony cried out ‘we are human too.'”

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 1.12.50 PMI realize this is only a very brief nutshell, and is definitely not the version of history Utah children learn in school, but we must also remember who wrote the version of history found in the school books.  Once again, for anyone who sincerely desires to have a better understanding of this subject matter, I highly recommend consideration of Gottfredson’s material, which I found very fascinating.

I also wanted to know more about all this from the standpoint of Corey’s own family.  This is what one of them had to say:

“The White history of Chief Kanosh and the Mormons is not what we were taught by our elders. Chief Kanosh didn’t invite the Mormons to the Pahvant Valley. Why would he do that? On the other hand, Brigham Young told his people, the Mormons, to settle there, not just at Corn Creek, but all around the state. Chief Kanosh knew the Mormons were coming and realized his people had no fighting chance to stop them. That has proven to be the case for all the tribes in the United States, but the Pahvant Utes were treated as poorly as any.


Chief Kanosh’s people were peaceful people, who had no guns, and no means to fight or resist the Mormons. They were simply outmanned and outgunned. Kanosh had no other choice but to give up and submit to the Mormon invasion. Attempting to be nice, and willing to negotiate was the only chance for his people’s survival. According to our elders, Chief Kanosh’s wife, Sally, was Ute instead of Paiute. She was traded to Brigham Young by her own people and eventually and secretly became one of his many wives, before being offered to Chief Kanosh.


In the end, the Mormons and the US Government claimed every single inch of the Pahvant Utes’ original homelands. The Pahvant Utes were told to move to the Ute Reservation in Northeastern Utah, and many did. Only a few stayed behind, near Kanosh, to struggle in their homelands, near the town named after their chief. Eventually they were forced to give up every bit of land they claimed, including our own cemetery, before the band was finally officially recognized, and a tiny sliver of land was given back.


So, contrary to the popular version, there has always been mistrust and resentment towards the Mormons ever since they invaded and claimed the Native Pahvant homelands. And the feeling seems to have always been mutual. [Perhaps the Mormons resented us because we were in their way.  Perhaps they felt guilty because of how they have always treated us]. But the Mormons seem to have always hated the Natives, mostly just because they were poor, and different.


Before the Mormons came we weren’t poor at all, only in the eyes of the Mormons. We had everything we needed. We were 500+ tribal members strong at Corn Creek. We could hunt and fish in our Mountains and creeks whenever we needed. We were independent and self-sufficient.  We used everything that Mother Earth and our Creator provided for us, all the while not polluting or exhausting our resources. Our people have existed here for thousands of years…. It’s a shame, how our God given rights have been taken from us by those very people who not only claim to believe in those same rights, but who also claim to be protectors, and who also claim to know what it feels like to be misunderstood, oppressed and persecuted.  I want the Corn Creek Mormons to know that the land they live on is and will always be considered KANOSH PAIUTE/UTE LAND.

(I found some of these comments especially interesting in light of the article about the Big Fat Surprise, and the longevity of Native Americans before they adopted White diet habits).

According to Corey’s family, it is this history of long-term oppression and poor treatment for generations that sparked a simmering resentment that ultimately ignited into a full-fledged blaze in Corey. Like Wakara, Black Hawk, Crazy Horse and Geronimo, Corey was born to be a warrior. He had the same defiant, untamed spirit of warriors past. According to one of his brothers, a song called “A Wild Hearted Son” by the band The Cult, tells the story.

This description of Corey coincides with what teachers and educators in the school system have said about him. These are people who worked with Corey and his siblings and family for many years.  They said Corey had a passion and spirit of defiance that made submission very difficult for him, and no one really knew how to deal with that spirit.  A one-size-fits-all approach simply didn’t work.

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 12.23.26 PMThere is the old debate about nature versus nurture, but undoubtedly, Corey came by part of this naturally. As the son of Marlene Pikyavit, Corey was also the grandson of McKay Pikyavit, the last Paiute Chief, who likewise lived in Kanosh.  Chief McKay was also a Millard County Deputy Sheriff.  Corey’s own father, Milo Kanosh (who predeceased Corey), was originally from the Richfield area and the Koosharem Ute/Paiute Band. Milo’s father, Deere Kanosh, and grandfather, Crockett Kanosh, were both chiefs of the Koosharem Band.  Milo came from a long line of warriors who had proudly served in the United States Military. Milo himself was a Viet Nam era Marine, who ended up getting in a bad motorcycle accident while still in training, that resulted in the amputation of one of his feet, so he was no longer eligible for combat deployment and ended up serving stateside.

Corey had four siblings, Jerald, Kenny, Marlena, and Greg.  According to friends and family members, Corey became a very gifted artist, with talent and temperament to match. As a celebrated Native American dancer, Corey was a talented and passionate performing artist. He was also a musician and painter, with special talents with an airbrush. Corey studied commercial art at Sevier Valley Tech in Richfield back in the 90s. It was while going to the Tech in Richfield that Corey had his first real run-in with the law, which resulted in his temporary confinement in the Sevier County Jail.

As improbable as it may seem, Corey managed to escape from jail, and after working his way across the Pahvant Mountains that his ancestors had been traversing for generations, he ended up in Kanosh, where he eventually broke into the store, seeking supplies. At some point he also acquired possession of a .22 rifle. Eventually, he was cornered by local law enforcement in a chicken coop, where an armed stand-off ensued before Corey finally agreed to surrender and turn himself in, at the encouragement of some of his family members, who were negotiating with him, and trying to mediate the stand-off.

Maybe Corey was living on borrowed time ever since that incident. In today’s law enforcement environment, there is little doubt he would have been shot and killed in any stand-off with law enforcement that involved possession of a weapon. Based on that experience, Corey ended up spending approximately the next 10 years in the Utah state prison system.  Because of his felony convictions, he never again possessed a firearm.

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 12.02.29 PMFollowing his release, Corey returned to his art, music and dancing. He designed and hand-crafted his feather bustles and Native American dance costumes, including all the beadwork. He also sewed special Native American competition dance dresses for his nieces, including beautiful jingle dresses.

At times Corey struggled with the same challenges many other people face, including substance abuse, and he often found it difficult to find and associate with positive influences. Eventually Corey married Erica West, who had been an old high school flame, and was a good friend of his sister, Marlee, but their relationship did not last.

At some point Corey got into a family argument with some of his Pikyavit cousins, after they had all been drinking, which developed into a full-fledged altercation, and eventually turned into a long-term family feud. Under other circumstances the consequences may not have been quite so serious, but because of his prior record, Corey returned to jail for approximately a year based on his actions and involvement.

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 12.19.14 PMFollowing his release, Corey met Margaret Blackbear, who was also a Native American dancer, with whom he associated at pow-wows.  They developed a relationship, and together, they had a son, Robert, who was born in the summer of 2012, just three short months before Corey died.

In addition to his art, music and dancing, Corey worked as a caretaker for the Kanosh Paiute Band, and was responsible for maintenance and upkeep of much of their public property.

According to family members Corey was also a very devoted caretaker for other family members, including several of his aunts, and his grandmother, Mildred Pikyavit.

Corey was considered to be a bright light and powerful energy in the lives of his close-knit family and friends, but according to his mother, Marlene Pikyavit, Corey carried a lot of burdens, and had his own demons to deal with. Firewater was one of the ways he attempted to cope with some of them.  Although Corey’s mother says he was normally quite mellow, he did have challenges with substance abuse, which often caused him to want to just keep to himself to avoid any possible trouble, but sometimes that didn’t work.

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This background may help to better understand who Corey was, and help create more context for what happened to him on October 15, 2012.

At that time, Corey’s sister Marlee and her boy friend Dana Harnes, who were living in Cedar City, were visiting family at the Kanosh reservation. Corey and Dana had been drinking. They wanted to take Marlee’s car over to Corn Creek Canyon, southeast of Kanosh. Because Marlee was 9 months pregnant, however, and due any time, she didn’t want to be left without a car. So they took Marlene’s car instead.

Because Marlene was concerned about their safety, as well as the safety of other people and motorists in the area, she called the Millard County Sheriff’s Department, to alert them to the situation and encourage them to watch out for Corey and Dana.  As a mother, she thought she was doing the right thing — trying to look out for the safety and well-being of her children and everyone else who might be involved.

In the next installment, I’ll examine what happened next.

10 thoughts on “COREY KANOSH, Part 1: the Untold Story — PAHVANT COUNTRY GRAPEVINE — by Delta Rose

  1. Thank you for sharing Corey Kanosh’s story. I have only recently heard about this tragedy. I am located in Fort Worth,Texas (and no relation to the deputy Peacock employed at the Millard sheriff’s office) I am trying my best to round up some grassroots efforts to help raise funds for the family to pursue their legal endeavor for justice. I very much appreciate the eneedy and detail put into this article and it allows me more insight so that I may help from all the way down here! Many thanks

  2. I just wanted to thank you Delta Rose for your kind words. I just stumbled upon your website and happy I did. I also want to say how deeply moved I am from the story here. It is so beautiful to see the Pahvant telling their story. For a long time I have advocated that we whites need to demand that true Indian history be taught in our schools. And I can tell you straight up that white people want to know the truth, and they want their children to know the truth. But those who run our school system see it differently, for now.

    Not too long ago I had the great privilege of meeting Cory at a powwow in Cedar City. I’m sure Cory doesn’t remember me, but he made a lasting impression on me. And because he is a descendant of one of the Great Chief Kanosh, honestly I felt so genuinely privileged to see him dance and to speak with him. Cory introduced me to his family there, I was lost for words to speak. I felt this way, when I met them, because I had read so much about Chief Kanosh and knew he was a great man of his time. And to read what is written here is truly educational for me. And I agree with everything said from my perspective as a researcher and brother in spirit.

    Prayers to you all and keep up the good fight,

    Phillip Gottfredson

  3. We knew Corey, he is/was a family member and we are glad that you posted this article about who he was and how the Mormons treated the Paiutes when they first settled there.

    My Husband (Clay) had told me about the massacres of that time and this is one of the reasons why I stay clear of Mormons.

    I certainly thank you for having the spunk and knowledge to publish the story and will follow your writings closely.

  4. I need to weigh in on this just a little because we are all in this together. This land is your land, this land is my land. I am sorry that what the Whiteman/ Native American did in the past is past. What can we do to make this better? This should not be about land this should be about the values of our eternal rights. I had family riding right alongside of Brigham Young and I have heard the stories about the Mormon past. I have family members that were or are very high up in the LDS Church and believe you me I get it from bloodlines that are not certain who are right or wrong. I was told by a family member that signs are that of the Devil, but yet the same sign is in the painted sky above the statue of Jesus at Temple Square. Now as for the Elders of Israel that I recently heard about. Who is to say who they are? We may all be the Elders of Israel. Like I said before I have my Native blood in me also, for which I am proud to have. I ask permission from the Great Spirits before I step foot unto unknown territory if I may enter. How many Native Americans or White men do that nowadays? I know whose land it is; it’s neither yours nor mine. I just learned again today what this fight is about and truthfully God/Great Spirit help us All Please! Thank You Delta Rose, The Kanosh Family. PP this was enlightening.

  5. Interesting, very interesting. I wish we as society could read more about the ancestry of Native Americans. I’m a white man that went to school in Davis County Utah. What I learned in school was that Native Americans were savage murderers that raped and killed women and children. I was taught the Federal government had to round all the Native Americans up and put them on land where they could be watched by our government. A bit later in my school years, my parents told me that Native Americans were treated like crap. We stole their land and gave them land that was neither capable of supporting them the way they were used to living, nor fit to grow crops to feed their families. I’m happy that I didn’t grow up in a prejudice household. I’ve also researched the LDS religion, and the ways of the early Mormons, including their treatment of Native Americans. I was surprised to learn that they were just as corrupt as some in our society are today. Everything from prostitution, bribing town officials, extorting money, owning beer and wine distilleries, and having their 24th July celebration up Cottonwood canyon to get completely wasted on the alcohol they made. I still think Native American’s are getting the shaft! I wish every citizen could learn the truth about our country and how it really was brought to be. Native Americans were getting along fine before the white men came and took everything from them. Thanks for the article! I found it to be very interesting. My how words get tangled in the favor of the white man.

  6. This was a very informing article that shows how many of us (i.e. white Americans) have neglected and abused those wonderful people, while claiming to be the shining stars ourselves. In actuality, most of us have been poor examples of what it means to be American. I am a white man, but I can recognize that I only came to live on this land because it was taken away, without real compensation. These people were not interested in money. If a car was stolen in the same way by another American, and then sold to me later, litigation would return the rights of that car back over to its rightful owner. That would be the right thing to do and I would have to forgo my sunk cost into that car. It would be painful, but justice would be served. The same consideration should go into native lands. We should either embrace them and learn to live their ever-lasting ways and/or return stewardship of the land to its rightful stewards entirely. If we don’t do that, our almighty father will distribute the justice himself. And, you’d better believe that he will.

  7. Thank you for giving insight into the life of Corey. He along with all of our “warrior children” including my son Matthew will be remembered for their bravery and willingness to stand up to the corruption that is in a government that is supposed to protect its people. His death will be avenged as will all of those who have been killed by law enforcement. Red, White, Yellow, Brown or Black, we must all stick together to fight the injustices that are against all of us by this corrupt system.

    Those who have committed murder will eventually be brought to justice by the “great Spirit” and their crimes will not go unpunished. Love to all of Corey’s family and friends and it is my hope that eventually you will all find peace.

  8. Great article Delta Rose. I knew Corey well enough to say yes he was and still is a warrior.
    When I look at the history of my people and the way we anglos have treated the natives I am ashamed to be part of it. Uncle Ralph (Red Cloud) has shared many stories passed down to him from his elders and what we anglos think happened is not the way things played out. I look forward to a day when the natives are treated more justly and their stewardship is returned.

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