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In the late 1860s, during a raid on a settler's shack that leaves a woman dead, Simon Waller waits outside while his father Trench and half-breed Charlie Whitman commit the murder and theft. Simon tells his father he is quitting the gang, and when Trench moves menacingly toward him, Simon fires his pistol, deliberately hitting a nearby coffee pot, and then leaves without accepting his share of the take. Whitman's attempt to get Simon's share prompts a fight with Trench, who menacingly slides his knife across Whitman's face, then pushes him out of the cabin. In the next few years, Trench induces Indians to carry out many attacks on whites. When he learns that gold from a Virginia City strike is being shipped to a bank in the East, Trench convinces a band of Indians to help him steal the gold. Meanwhile, Simon has become partners in a prospecting venture with Lucas Rand, whose parents run a waystation. With the gold they have mined and the money in the bank he has saved, Lucas plans to settle down in Arizona and become a cattleman. At his parents' waystation, Lucas reads an old newspaper article about Indian raids that have been breaking out sporadically, despite Washington's assurances that the situation with the Indians is all settled. Lucas' father Tom believes that if more honesty and humanity were used in dealing with the Indians, relations would improve, but Jerry, the family's handyman, calls the Indians "savages" and complains that the army will not act unless a full uprising occurs. Tom relates that most people believe that a white man is behind the recent attacks. That night, Indians led by Trench and his Mexican ally Amigo attack the waystation, where the stage carrying the Virginia City gold will stop. Tom, his wife Martha and Jerry are killed, and Lucas, after killing one of the Indians, is stabbed by Trench. The next day, Simon arrives at the station and revives Lucas. At the burial of his parents and Jerry, Lucas relates that his mother rode twenty miles one night to help an Indian woman give birth, then took care of the baby all winter. Recalling that his father used to say that Indians are human beings and should be treated as such, Lucas says he does not understand why they were killed and vows revenge on the white man who led the Indians. He reveals to Simon that the white man had a scar down the left side of his face, and Simon realizes the man is his father, but does not tell Lucas. When Amigo tells Trench that he has heard talk that the army is coming into the territory, Trench decides to leave for California, where new gold fields are opening up. Trench plans to travel through the mountains, and they visit Whitman to hire him as a guide. Whitman's beautiful Indian wife Tanana refuses to respond when Trench demands that she bring him food, so he pours hot coffee on her arm, but Whitman still agrees to join them if they will give him half of the take. In town, where Whitman has gone for supplies, Simon witnesses Amigo shoot Whitman during a bar fight. Amigo then provokes Simon into a fight, and because Simon suffers a coughing fit, Amigo is able to to knock him down. When Lucas arrives, Amigo goes for his gun and Lucas shoots him dead. When Simon revives, Lucas tells him he has learned that the white man behind the Indian raids is holed up in Sioux country and that there is talk of the army moving in. The next day, Simon helps Tanana bury Whitman, and she delivers a Christian prayer over the grave. She then agrees to lead Lucas and Simon through Sioux country to Trench's hideout. During the journey, Lucas discovers Simon's true identity and tells him and Tanana to leave, and they proceed separately to Trench's cabin. There, Trench removes his gun belt and Tanana and Lucas watch as he greets his son. After Simon tells Trench that he has come to kill him, Trench embraces him, then stabs him in the back. Lucas moves in and shoots two of Trench's gang, but runs out of bullets and wrestles the knife away from Trench. After a long fistfight, Trench recovers the knife and is about to kill Lucas when Simon shoots him. Simon and Tanana are by now in love and Lucas renews his friendship with Simon.