The movie is set during the Civil war and a U.S. Cavalry outpost needs horses. Joan Britton rounds up horses for a living and she convinces her Native American housekeeper to take her out to the hidden camp of Chief Red Cloud (played by was a Yankton Sioux Johnny War Eagle) and tries to persuade him to sell her his herd of horses. Chief Red Cloud says "white man always speaks with two tongue". Red Cloud is not concerned that the horses may help end the Civil War. He says "Sioux people not sorry white men kill their brothers. Once thet call us brothers, but they killed us too." He goes on : "We do not listen to the forked tongue." Red Cloud is not happy and warns Joan's housekeeper to never bring any one else to his camp.
Some other horse wranglers had followed Joan and decide they will steal the Sioux horses. As they run off the herd a gun battle breaks out. Some of the Indians are shot and the thieves get away with the horses. Doctor Jonathan Westgate, (played by Jeff Chandler, Cochise in Broken Arrow, shows up in camp and saves Red Cloud's wounded horse. Red Cloud appreciates what Westgate has done. Westgate tells Red Cloud that he thinks he can promise him that a road will not be built through their land. Red Cloud says: "You can not keep promise. You are white." Westgate just looks down.
Steven Cook, the thief, is causing all kinds of trouble in town and most of the movie centers around Cook, Westgate and Joan. Cook frames Westgate for a murder, but Westgate thinks he can get Red Cloud to clear him, if he can identify the horse Cook stole.
When Westgate gets out to camp he sees that the Sioux have guns from the Confederate army. There is a Cherokee Confederate general, Stan Watie, who is trying to recruit the Indian nations to fight against the Union. Westgate talks to the gathered tribes, but one of the chiefs tells him: "White man has no justice for Indian." Read Cloud tells Westgate that they are going to listen to the Cherokee general before they decide whether they will fight. in the meantime, Red Cloud says he will go with Westgate to identify his horse and the thieves.
When Westgate and Red Cloud meet Joan, she tells them that the horse has been destroyed. Red cloud doesn't trust her, and brings them back to the council. The Cherokee General is speaking to the council. He greets them, but when his slave accidentally bumps him, Watie slaps him and knocks him down. Red Cloud watches in stunned silence.
Watie then gives a speech :
Our hearts are glad to see all our brothers here, for all of us are brothers " the Sioux, the Crow, the Blackfoot, the Cheyenne, the Oglala, the Nez Perce, and the Confederates. The bluecoats who have driven you from your lands have now come in to out homes, they would drive us too into the sea. But we will stand together and we will defeat them. We will force them to divide their armies and fight two brave enemies at once. With the guns the Confederates will provide the tribes will push the bluecoats out of the West and our sacred institutions will be saved.
Westgate answers :
I don't think the Sioux would like being enslaved. And I don't think the Nez Perce would like it much either or the Blackfoot or Cheyenne would cringe before a master who cowardly slaps an innocent servant."
Red Cloud then has Westgate run the gauntlet, to prove that he has an Indian (truthful) heart. Westgate fights his way through and says: "I do not say that all of the people on my side are good. I do not pretend that we have always treated you justly. I do not promise that if you help us now there will be eternal brotherhood between you and us. I was taught by a wise man, by Chief Red Cloud, not to promise that which is not in my power to keep. He who makes promises for other men and other times lies, and he knows it. Among my people, those whom you call the bluecoats, there is a belief that no man should be hurt or made inferior because of his race. That belief is strong with us. So strong that men are willing to die for it and are now fighting a great war. That is all I have to promise. I speak not with a forked tongue."
Great speech Westgate. All the tribes decide not to get involved in the Civil War. The Cherokee General may have cost the South the war, because he slapped his slave. When the evil white guys steal the Sioux horses again, and shoot a young boy, Westgate again gets blamed. The Sioux go after their horses and get them back but Westgate and Joan escape first.
Interesting movie. Not many movies have made the Confederacy look bad. Corny, happy ending, but overall still a pretty good movie.