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Crown City, Colorado, once a busy gold mining town, is now miles away from the nearest gold vein, which lies across the San Juan River, in Ute Indian country. Many of the townspeople have been driven to desperation by hard times, including Gary Brannon, who, with his father Sam, operates a freight company. Gary falls in with a group of men, led by Frank Walker, who are planning to seize gold-rich land located in territory assigned to the Ute Indians as part of a peace treaty. On the night of their planned river crossing, Sam tries unsuccessfully to dissuade Gary from joining the men. While Sam has maintained a delicate friendship with the Ute chief, Ouray, Gary harbors deep resentment for the Utes, who killed his mother. Sam is determined to stop Walker and his men from using Gary and Nathan Marlowe, the first settler of Crown City, to start a war with the Indians, and follows their wagons. Sam catches up with the raiding party just in time to prevent his son from killing the chief's son, Red Knife, and urges him instead to use the Indian as a hostage. During a gun battle between a Ute hunting party and Walker's men, Sam manages to bring about a temporary cease-fire by telling the Utes that they have Red Knife, and that they will turn him over only when the Utes release their hostage, Marlowe. The next day, as Sam prepares the hostage exchange, Walker signals his men to fire at the Indians, and the temporary truce is broken. When Sam is wounded in the gun battle, Gary realizes that his father is right, and decides to sever his ties with Walker. Gary later tells the Ute chief that only a small band of instigators are responsible for the recent fighting. The dying Ouray does not believe the white man's promises of peace, but instructs his son Taos to deliver Gary safely home. Gary arrives in Crown City just in time to prevent Walker and his men from marching on the Ute village. Walker, however, quickly devises a new plan to get his men across the San Juan River again: He takes Sam hostage and coerces Gary into robbing a gold-filled stagecoach, killing its driver and guard, and planting evidence implicating the Utes. After he has been convicted of the crime and preparations are made for his hanging, Gary sends a message to Walker, offering, in exchange for his freedom, to tell him where he hid the gold shipment. The ploy works, and Sam is sent to break his son out of prison and deliver him to Walker. Instead of leading Walker and his men to the gold shipment, though, Gary takes them to the sacred Ute burial ground, knowing that the Indians will engage the men in a bloody battle there. After the Indians massacre Walker's gang, Gary proudly observes the signing of a new treaty with the Indians, and looks forward to starting a new life with his sweetheart Jennie.