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In 1875, a group of renegade Comanches led by the warlike Black Cloud attacks and burns a Mexican village, kidnaps a number of women, including beautiful young Margarita Alvarez, and escapes Mexican troops by crossing the border into U.S. territory. Later that day, Quanah Parker, chief of the Comanche Antelope tribe, stops the renegades from massacring a gang of scalp traders, led by former Cavalry scout Art Downey. Scout Jim Read orders Downey to stay out of the territory, accusing him of having made "a career of Indian hating," which prompts Downey to call Jim an Indian lover. At the Cavalry encampment, Jim meets Commissioner Ward, a government official who has been ordered to end the latest round of Comanche raids into Mexican territory. General Nelson A. Miles and Jim explain to Ward the roots of the mutual animosity between the Mexicans and the Comanches: When in the early eighteenth century the conquering Spaniards discovered that the land was rich in silver, they forced Comanches to work the mines as slaves. The Comanches rebelled and massacred the Spaniards, who began offering rewards for Indian scalps, even those taken from women and small children. After winning independence from Spain, Mexico officially ended the practice, but by that time, scalp hunting had become big business. Now, Jim concludes, hatred and killing is "a way of life." If the U.S. and Mexico promise to end scalp hunting, Jim maintains, and can persuade respected chief Quanah to approve an "honorable" peace agreement, the raids will cease. Commissioner Ward and Miles send Jim and his cohort Puffer to negotiate with Quanah, but when Downey informs the distrustful Ward that Jim's mother was the sister of Quanah's mother, an American who had been captured by Indians as a child, he orders the peace talks cut short. While seeking Quanah, Jim and Puffer find Margarita wandering the countryside in a daze and offer her food. They then watch as Downey's gang, anxious for more scalps, shoots at two Comanches. Jim and Puffer rescue one of the wounded Indians and return him to Quanah's stronghold, but Black Cloud accuses Jim of the shooting. The injured Comanche, Quanah's brother, regains his strength and clears Jim and Puffer, after which Jim persuades Quanah to make peace with the U.S. and Mexican governments. Jim tells Quanah they are cousins, and Quanah vows loyalty to his white friend. This infuriates Black Cloud, who gathers his own followers and leaves the village. Jim and Puffer ride off to fetch Ward and Miles for a peace council, but before they leave, Jim promises Margarita that he will return and marry her. On the journey to the Army encampment, Jim and Puffer come across a Cavalry unit that has just been massacred by Black Cloud. Miles soon arrives with Ward, Downey, and a large regiment of soldiers, but Ward, who calls Jim the cousin of a savage, has ordered Miles to subdue Quanah by force, and Jim is unable to prevent their march to Quanah's stronghold. Seeing the soldiers, Black Cloud sends word to Quanah and then traps and destroys a column of troopers led by Ward and Downey. Black Cloud captures Ward and threatens to kill him if Miles and his approaching column refuse the renegade Comanches safe passage from the area. Just then Quanah, leading a huge force of loyal Comanches, threatens to attack Black Cloud. Trapped, the vengeful Black Cloud kills Ward and begins battling Miles's men. During the battle, Downey's shot misses Jim's back, but Jim's return bullet finds its mark. Next, Jim fights with and finally strangles Black Cloud, and soon the battle ends and Quanah and Miles shake hands. The Comanches will uphold the peace, Quanah promises, in exchange for the freedom to choose their own teachers, practice their own religion, and think their own thoughts. "From where the sun now stands," he declares, "we will fight no more forever." The agreement made, the troopers start toward home, with Jim and Margarita in the lead.