Kanosh (1812?-1884) was the leader of the Pahvant Utes from the 1850s
until the time of his death. According to Mormon records he was the son
of Kashe Bats and Wah Goots. The Pahvant band ranged the deserts surrounding
Sevier Lake. With the intrusion of whites into this area, Kanosh struggled
to insure the hegemony and survival of his people through negotiation rather
than conflict. It was a strategy which proved as futile as the other, however.
Kanosh's efforts at conciliation were early manifest in his turning over
to military authorities six Pahvants supposedly involved in the killing
of U.S. surveyor Captain John Gunnison and other members of his survey party
in 1853. These six were probably only peripherally involved and were surrendered
merely to satisfy federal investigators. The Mormon jurors at the trial
in Nephi City found three guilty of manslaughter and acquitted the others.
Federal officials were convinced that Mormon officials had staged the trial
to mollify non-Mormon opinion and to protect Kanosh's favored Indian group.
Kanosh had taken over leadership of the Pahvant group from Chuick, a leader
more eager to fight the invading Mormon settlers. Perhaps Kanosh's willingness
to work with non-Utes came out of his experiences working in the missions
of California. Whether that work was voluntary or part of the long-standing
slave trade of Indians into the Spanish settlements is not known. Certainly,
the physical characteristics of Kanosh and others of the "Bearded Utes,"
as Escalante had called the Pahvants in the 1770s, suggest generations of
contact with the Spaniards. Kanosh spoke Spanish and seems to have had a
facility for languages, as he also easily picked up English.
Kanosh represented the Pahvant Utes at the signing of the treaty with Brigham
Young which signalled the end of the Walker War in 1854. A year later, federal
Indian Agent Garland Hurt established four Indian farms, including one at
Corn Creek where Kanosh's band had a major camp. (Pahvants with other leaders
camped at Sevier Lake.) Kanosh and several other Pahvant families took up
farming. In 1858 Kanosh was baptized a Mormon and he occasionally preached
from Mormon pulpits, including the following: "I wish to do right and
have my people do right. I do not want them to steal nor kill. I want to
plant and raise wheat and learn to plow. . . . I want to learn to read and
write and have my children learn."
Even after the Indian farm was abandoned by federal officials, the Pahvants
at Corn Creek continued to farm. Surrounding Mormon settlers gave them some
assistance. And although Kanosh was involved in the negotiations of the
1865 Spanish Fork treaty in which Utes agreed to move to the Uinta Basin,
Kanosh and his group continued at Corn Creek until a grasshopper invasion
in 1868 destroyed most of their crops. However, Kanosh and his people did
not always remain in the Uinta Basin; they returned often to Corn Creek
to farm, forage, and beg from Mormon settlers.
In 1872 hundreds of Utes including Kanosh and his followers gathered in
the Sanpete area. Kanosh also attended a council at Springville and joined
in the complaints to federal officials and Mormon Church leaders about conditions
at the Uinta reservation. That fall federal officials sent a group of Ute
leaders to Washington, D.C., to negotiation peace and further land cessions
in Colorado. Kanosh went and promised President U.S. Grant to remain on
the reservation in return for supplies and stock. During that trip John
Wesley Powell described Kanosh as a man of "ability" and "influence."
Mention should be made of Kanosh's four wives since he is as much known
through stories about them as about himself. One of his wives killed another
and was punished by Kanosh by being buried alive. Another of his wives,
Sally, was a Ute woman who had been raised in Brigham Young's household.
Conditions on the reservation remained grim, and Kanosh continued to use
the Corn Creek area. Most of his followers had also been baptized as Mormons;
however, their numbers dwindled from disease, inability to master a changed
environment, and economic dependency. Kanosh's survival strategy of conciliation
and accommodation thus also ended in the Indians' loss of land and culture.