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Johnny Hawks, a frontier scout who fought for the Confederacy in the recently ended Civil War, returns to the land of the Sioux, where his old friend, Chief Red Cloud, has been threatening a newly constructed fort along the trail to Oregon. Red Cloud's brother, Grey Wolf, greets Johnny with distrust, saying "There can be no friendship between red man and white." Red Cloud, although inviting Johnny to stay the night, is also suspicious, and Johnny soon discovers the reason for the chief's anger: With the discovery of gold on Sioux lands, white men have been giving his people whiskey in exchange for the precious metal. Fearing that gold will bring a flood of white men into Sioux territory, thereby devastating the land, Red Cloud proclaims that any Sioux who reveals the location of the gold or engages in secret deals with whites will be executed. As Johnny washes himself in the stream by the village, he observes that Red Cloud's daughter Onahti, whom he had known as a child, has grown into a beautiful woman. He grabs and kisses her, letting her go only after she threatens him with a knife. During the night, two men who are traveling with the wagon train Johnny has been hired to guide through Sioux territory, Wes Todd and his partner Chivington, attempt to bribe two Indians out of their gold with whiskey. When one of the Indians loudly refuses, Todd shoots him, but the village is awakened and the killer is caught. Todd blames the shooting on Chivington, who has escaped, but Grey Wolf prepares to burn the murderer alive. Johnny asks Red Cloud if he may take the prisoner to the fort, where government officials will bring him to justice, but Grey Wolf forces Johnny to fight for him. Johnny proves the stronger fighter, and as he rides to the fort with the prisoner, Todd admits that he and Chivington were after gold. When Johnny suggests that he knows where the gold is hidden, Todd invites him to become his partner. At the fort, Chivington has stirred the soldiers and settlers into a frenzy by claiming that Todd was scalped in an unprovoked attack. Todd soon appears in the saloon unharmed, and Capt. Trask has both men locked up. Johnny, who is respected as a knowledgeable Indian fighter, persuades Trask to meet with Red Cloud, and on the following day, the chief and his warriors are given a formal welcome. After Red Cloud signs a treaty, the fort's inhabitants celebrate with a spirited dance. Johnny dances with Susan Rogers, a widow whose little son Tommy is as fascinated with the Indians as the widow is with Johnny. The next morning, Johnny leads a train of about twenty wagons toward the Oregon territory, where settlers have been promised free land. Todd and Chivington, having been released by the captain, ride along, as does a photographer who had apprenticed with Matthew Brady during the war. Sitting apart from the singers around the campfire that night, Susan and Johnny talk, and she suggests that he accompany them to Oregon as her husband. Johnny protests that he is not fit for marriage, and when he walks away, farmer Will Crabtree tries his hand at wooing Susan. The following days take the wagon train deep into Sioux territory, and the travelers are unaware that Johnny has brought them there so that he may visit Onahti. Chivington tries to follow Johnny, thinking that the scout will head for the hidden gold, but Johnny sees him and slips away undetected. While Johnny makes love to Onahti, a group of Indians visit the camp intending to trade goods with the settlers. Nervous at first, the white travelers finally barter with the Sioux, but Todd and Chivington ply the feeble-minded Crazy Bear with so much whiskey that he reveals the location of the gold. Grey Wolf hears this, and as he angrily approaches, Todd stabs him. Chivington then shoots a white bystander, after which Todd shouts that the Indians have attacked the camp. Todd and Chivington send the settlers in a panic back toward the fort, while they ride off in search of the gold. When Johnny returns to camp, he finds Grey Wolf's body and then pursues the departed wagon train. Will and the other settlers assume Johnny had led them into a trap, and as he rides into the fort, they and Trask accuse him of betrayal. The men intend to lynch Johnny, but Trask orders them to prepare for the coming battle. Nevertheless, Johnny's admission that he abandoned his post to see a woman infuriates the captain, and he refuses to let Johnny search for Todd and Chivington. Red Cloud sends his warriors to attack the fort, and before nightfall, the Indians set fire to the wooden defenses and kill many soldiers. Certain that the fort will be obliterated in the morning, Johnny steals away and finds Onahti. Arguing that if the massacre is not prevented, the two of them will have no life together, he finally convinces her to lead him to the hidden gold. There he finds Todd and Chivington preparing to set off some dynamite. Johnny wants to deliver them to Red Cloud, but Todd jumps him, thereby setting off an explosion that kills Chivington. Todd tries to escape, but Onahti wounds him, and the three ride back to the village. Intent on avenging his brother's death, Red Cloud has Todd shot with a flaming arrow and then threatens to kill his daughter for revealing the tribe's secret. Johnny then declares that he loves Onahti. Back at the fort, the defenders prepare for battle, and they are surprised and greatly relieved when the approaching Indians suddenly turn away. With peace restored, the wagon train passes uneventfully through Sioux territory, but Johnny remains behind with Onahti.