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In the early 1920s, in the oil-rich plains of Tulsa, Oklahoma, three ranchers, Native American Jim Redbird, Nelse Lansing and his one-quarter Native American daughter Cherokee, who is known as "Cherry," discover that some of their cattle have died after drinking from polluted streams. Jim and Nelse go to the neighboring Tanner Petroleum Corp. to complain, when suddenly, one of the wells explodes, and Nelse is crushed to death by the well platform. Later, at refinery owner Bruce Tanner's hotel room, Tanner's advisor, Winters, refuses Cherry's demand for $20,000 to replace some prize cattle killed in the explosion. On her way out, Cherry encounters her cousin, hotel employee Pinky Jimpson, who walks her out to the curb. There, drunken oilman "Crude" Johnny Brady hands Cherry a packet of papers, hops into a cab and speeds away. When Pinky tries to return the papers to Johnny the following morning, he learns that Johnny was killed in a brawl the previous night. Pinky then gives Cherry the news and explains that the papers are oil leases which grant her the right to drill on land belonging to Jim and another Native American rancher named Charlie Lightfoot. Later, Tanner arrives, apologizes to Cherry for Winters' behavior and offers her a check for $20,000 in exchange for her newly-acquired drilling rights. When Jim arrives and complains about the pollution, Cherry decides to form her own oil company and take Jim on as a partner. One day, Cherry receives a visit from Johnny's son and heir, famous Princeton athlete Brad "Bronco" Brady. Soon after, in Tulsa, Tanner overhears Brad encouraging Cherry to continue drilling and offers to put up the additional money, with one stipulation: If she does not strike oil within three weeks, the leases will become his. Cherry accepts the challenge and soon strikes oil, but Charlie and some of the other ranchers are dissatisfied with their royalties. At an oil drillers' meeting, they demand additional drilling, dismissing Brad's warning against spoiling their grasslands. When Cherry hosts an opera company reception at her new mansion, the governor attends, and Brad persuades him to appoint a commission on environmental conservation. Later, Tanner persuades Cherry to merge her company with his to form a conglomerate called Tel Oil. Without Jim's approval, Cherry signs an agreement calling for additional drilling on his property. Later, when Jim bars Tel Oil workers from his property, Tanner contacts his friend, Judge McKay, who holds an informal hearing in his office. The judge threatens to appoint a guardian for Jim, who is a ward of the state, after which Jim returns home. There, he finds the carcasses of some of his cattle on the banks of a polluted stream. To test the water for oil, Jim strikes a match, and the stream immediately erupts in flames. After the fire creeps upstream toward the refinery, Pinky, Cherry and Brad arrive. The wells begin exploding one by one, and Jim is injured while attempting to save his remaining cattle. After Cherry rushes to his aid, and they are both trapped, Brad bravely rescues them. Later, Jim apologizes for starting the fire, and when he hears Cherry vow to rebuild with spaced wells and fences to protect the cattle, he gratefully kisses her.