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Bounty hunter Frank Carter, with his gang, Leach, Jake and Carlos, attack a Shoshoni Indian village on the Secora River, occupied by only squaws and old men, to capture scalps to sell for forty dollars each. Following the attack, Chief Black Feather meets with Colonel Stanton of the 33rd Cavalry to protest the violation of the peace treaty signed ten months earlier and says that Shoshoni who lose their scalp cannot join their fathers in the council fire until the one who took the scalp is dead. Learning that Buffalo Horn, whose bride was murdered by the bounty hunters, has already gone on the warpath with seven others, the colonel assigns Captain Ed Trask to capture Carter and his gang. Trask, a Civil War hero whom the chief respects as one of the white men who "walk tall among his people," had served with Carter before Carter was dishonorably discharged. The colonel emphasizes that Carter should be brought back alive, so that he can stand trial and die by the firing squad to prove to the Shoshoni Nation, who are ready to rise up in war, that the white man's brand of justice is as effective as theirs. Carter is to rendezvous with his men after he collects the bounty in Holcolm, an abandoned mining town in the Black Hills. Because Holcolm is outside the colonel's jurisdiction, Trask must go there alone. At the mining town, Trask captures Carter before his gang gets there, but Carter is able to hide the bounty money. After Trask and Carter leave, Leach, Jake and Carlos arrive, and because Leach deduces that only one man captured Carter, they set off in pursuit to recover their money. Trask leads Carter relentlessly on, refusing to make a fire because it might attract Carter's gang or Buffalo Horn. At night as Trask sleeps, Carter tries to escape, but Trask, having tied a string from Carter's leg to his own wrist, awakens in time to stop him. After seeing a group of Indians attack and burn a covered wagon in the distance, Trask and Carter ride to the wagon and find an injured woman and her dead grandfather. The woman, Sally Medford, explains that she and her grandfather were heading to Arizona from Pennsylvania to prospect for gold. When she expresses a virulent hatred for "murdering Red savages," Carter proudly tells her that he has dedicated his life to killing every Indian he finds. Sally rides with them on Trask's pack horse, and when Carter's gang arrive at the overturned wagon, Leach, noticing the deeper tracks and a perfumed scarf, deduces that they now are traveling with a woman, which greatly excites Jake. When Sally learns that Carter might be executed for killing Indians, she says he should instead be given a medal. Carter then vows that when he is free, he will kill the Indians who murdered her grandfather. Trask chains Carter to a fallen tree trunk for the night, and in the morning, a rattle snake bites Carter on the leg. Trask shoots the snake then sucks the poison from Carter's leg, but when they are ready to leave, Sally protests that moving Carter could endanger his life. Trask tells her that if they remain, their lives will be in danger from Carter's men and from Buffalo Horn. After Carter falls from his horse twice and goes into convulsions, Sally threatens to report Trask for mistreatment of his prisoner. Trask decides to start a fire to warm Carter, but as he covers Carter with blankets, Carter, who had been feigning illness, chokes Trask with his chain and threatens to kill him unless Sally takes Trask's keys and unlocks his handcuffs. Once his hands are freed, Carter attacks Trask, and in the ensuing struggle, Trask overpowers Carter. Just then Leach, Jake and Carlos arrive and knock out Trask. As Carter takes a shot at Trask and leaves him for dead, Sally panics and rides off on the pack horse. Carter sends Carlos and Jake after her, arranging to meet them on the trail to Holcolm to retrieve the money. When Jake and Carlos encounter Sally, Jake tricks her into accompanying them by reassuring her that they will escort her to Colonel Stanton's fort as soon as they retrieve the money. Jake and Carlos lead Sally to Carter, who chastises them for leaving her horse behind. Meanwhile, Trask revives and, after finding the pack horse, follows the group to Holcolm, where he silently subdues Carlos. Sally hugs Trask, who tells her he has to bring Carter back alive to avert an Indian war. Trask then confronts Leach, and in the ensuing shootout, Leach is killed. After Trask shoots a gun from Carter's hand, Jake runs away in fright. As Carter, who has now recovered his gun, is about to shoot Trask, he is killed by an arrow. Indians then approach and drop Jake's dead body on the ground. Buffalo Horn tells Trask that he will inform Black Feather that the Shoshoni and "one who walks tall" brought justice together. As the Indians ride off in peace, Trask and Sally smile at each other.