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Newly arrived to the southern section of the Navajo nation, Laughing Boy, an expert silversmith, attends the annual Great Sing Dance at T'si Lani and there meets the beautiful Slim Girl. Reared by whites, the orphan Slim Girl, whose "town" name is Lily, is ostracized by the conservative Navajos and is denounced as a prostitute. Although confused by Slim Girl's overtly seductive behavior, Laughing Boy is nonetheless drawn to her and is goaded by her to compete in a horse race. During the race, for which Laughing Boy has offered his most coveted bracelet as a prize, Red Man, a Pauite, causes Laughing Boy's horse to fall. Laughing Boy loses the race but, determined to win back his bracelet and impress Slim Girl, immediately challenges Red Man to a wrestling match. After Laughing Boy defeats Red Man in the match, he confesses his love to an admiring Slim Girl. Although his strict father refuses to sanction a union with Slim Girl, Laughing Boy leaves with her that night. While camping, Slim Girl seduces the inexperienced Laughing Boy with "moonshine" and flirtation, but finds herself alone the next morning, abandoned by the now-ashamed Navajo. Crushed, Slim Girl returns to her shabby life as mistress to George Hartshone, a brutish but well-to-do rancher. Soon, however, her yearning for Laughing Boy overcomes her, and sensing that he is near, she rides to the hills to find him. Once reunited, the couple marry and join Laughing Boy's family tribe. In spite of her efforts to work and behave like a traditional Navajo wife, Slim Girl is criticized by her in-laws and is labeled as weak and unfit. Overwhelmed with loneliness and rejection, Slim Girl suggests to Laughing Boy that they move to their own hogan and support themselves by trading his silver jewelry for money to buy and raise goats. Slim Girl then convinces her husband that she must go to town alone to do the trading. Eventually, however, Slim Girl's repeated absences from home drive Laughing Boy to distraction, and during Fourth of July celebrations, he rides to town to find her. After searching the town, Laughing Boy is directed to Slim Girl's house, unaware that she has been staying there with Hartshone. When he finds Slim Girl in Hartshone's arms, Laughing Boy shoots an arrow at his rival but strikes his wife in the chest instead. As she dies in his arms, Slim Girl begs Laughing Boy to forgive her, then promises to wait for him in heaven.