An artist working in a remote army post is juggling the storekeeper's daughter, his fiancée newly arrived from the east, and the Indian Chief's daughter. But when a vengeful settler manages to get the army and the braves at each other's throats his troubles really begin.
Jonathan Adams, an artist on assignment for a Massachusetts society to paint frontier scenes, is away from Boston so long that his fiancée, Cynthia Stanhope, chaperoned by her Aunt Agatha, travel to Fort Alden seeking him. She finds him using Greta Jones, daughter of storekeeper Clem Jones, as a model. Butler, a fanatic, is seeking to instigate an Indian war so that he might gain control of the whole Mohawk valley. Mohawk Chief Kowanen holds his tribe in check but impatient warrior Rokhawah goads tribe-members into raiding the fort for guns. Onida, Kowanen's daughter, agrees to let the raiders into the fort after sundown and finds herself trapped in Adams' quarters after the raiders escape. He smuggles her out the next day and her father is grateful. Onida and Adams fall in love. Butler kills Kowanen's son, Keoga, and this prods the chief into declaring war against the whites, and even Adams is taken prisoner.
In 1700s New York, a Boston artist working in the remote Fort Alden is torn between his love for 2 women and thrown into the middle of a Mohawk-Iroquois-American war.
- A wagon train courses across the Cherry Valley in New York, headed for Ft. Alden. As members of various indian tribes comprising the Iroquois Nation watch, two women riding on a wagon are worried about possible danger. The man driving the wagon tells them that the indians are currently peaceful, but can't be trusted to stay that way. He tells them white women in their war paint (make-up) make him much more nervous.
The women are Aunt Agatha (Barbara Jo Allen) and her niece Cynthia (Lori Nelson) Stanhope. They are on their way from Boston to Ft. Alden to find Jonathan Adams (Scott Brady), an artist whom Cynthia hopes to marry. Adams had been commissioned by the Massachusetts Society to go to Ft. Alden and produce at least 20 paintings representing the area.
Captain Langley (John Hudson) is the commandant of Ft. Alden. When he learns that the ladies are there to meet up with Jonathan Adams, he's a bit taken aback, especially when they tell him that Cynthia is Jonathan's fiance. It seems Jonathan has a bit of a reputation as a ladies man. The ladies' visit was meant to be a surprise.
Langley calls over the fort's store proprietor, Clem Jones (Rhys Williams), and asks him if he knows where Adams is. Jones doesn't know specifically, only that Adams is with his daughter Greta (Allison Hayes), and a milk cow, outside the fort someplace doing a painting.
Greta is a beautiful redhead who is in love with Adams, but she knows he doesn't love her, so when he mentions that he should marry a woman like her, she comments that she's too stupid for him and will be fat like her father in another 10 years.
Three Iroquois maidens stumble upon Greta and Jonathan, but the couple don't see them. One of the maidens is Onida (Rita Gam), the daughter of Chief Kowanen (Ted de Corsia). She's curious about the practice of kissing, which she observes Greta and Jonathan do.
Mr. Butler (John Hoyt) is a life-long resident of the Cherry Valley who resents both the indians and the settlers who now live there. He goes over to the indian encampment and meets with Chief Kowanen, informing the chief that 61 new settlers and a wagon load of rifles had recently arrived in the valley, inferring that the rifles were meant to be used against the indians to force them off their lands, which are needed for the growing number of settlers. Kowanen responds that "the eagle is not afraid of the mole." That elicits and immediate response from a Tuscarora Indian named Rokhawah (Neville Brand), who says that's just the sort of thing that his father used to say before their people were overwhelmed by the white man.
Minikah (Mae Clarke), Kowanen's wife, glances down at the indian blanket draped across her shoulders and reads the story told by the symbols on the blanket about the history of their people and how the Great Spirit and the wise men all counseled the Iroquois peoples to band together and maintain the peace by being strong in unity. Kowanen tells Butler and Rokhawah that he will not seek hostilities against the whites.
Jonathan and Greta arrive back at the fort just as the gates are being closed at sunset. Jonathan is shocked to see Cynthia and Aunt Agatha standing there. After exchanging hugs hello, he introduces them to Greta. Cynthia then asks Jonathan to show her what paintings he had completed to date. She observes that he is two months overdue in returning to Boston. She wants him to return with her and get married. He doesn't seem interested in either idea.
Greta shows Agatha the painting she and the cow had been modeling for. In the painting, Greta stands holding the bottom of her skirt up so that her legs are showing. Agatha doesn't seem impressed.
At dinner, Butler is informed by Agatha that she is a "Miss," and further explains that she's a spinster due to her wit, because every time a man proposed to her, she laughed at him, and after some time, the joke was on her. Mr. Butler reveals a strong bitterness to his table mates when he speaks that his family used to be the only white family in the valley and they considered it to be their personal property. He thinks that indians have the same rights as animals and are fit to be no more than slaves. He observes that so many white settlers are showing up, that they are squeezing the life out of the valley.
Kowanen's and Minikah's son, Keoga (Tommy Cook), and Rokhawah both believe an attempt should be made to get the rifles away from the settlers so they can't be used against them. Keoga asks his sister, Onida, if she will help them. Onida seems to share their concerns and agrees to help. Because indians are allowed inside the fort during the day, but must leave at dusk, Onida hides out inside the fort and later lets the warriors in through a door connected to a secret tunnel that leads outside the fort. The indians proceed to club four sentries unconscious and begin removing rifles from the back of a wagon and passing them to others outside the fort. Another sentry sees them and shoots, wounding one brave. The rest of the fort's occupants are alerted by the shooting and rush out to see what's up. The indians all make to escape, but another warrior is shot before they all get out.
Agatha wonders why Jonathan just sits at a table continuing to calmly eat his supper when there's obvious trouble outside. He tells her that his help isn't needed. Seeing that the ladies are distraught, he offers to escort them to their quarters for the night, then goes to his own room. Onida didn't go over the wall with the warriors, so she attempts to return to the tunnel to get out, but as Adams is there by then, he grabs her as she runs past. He's immediately taken with her looks and spirit. They struggle for awhile, but when they hear others approaching, he hides her behind his bed. A small detail led by the commandant enter Adams' quarters. An old timer immediately goes to the doorway in the wall and explains to the commandant that it provides access to a tunnel leading outside the fort and was likely how the warriors gained entry. A small keg of dynamite is placed inside the tunnel and it's blown closed.
After the detail leaves his room, Adams tells Onida that he'll smuggle her outside the fort tomorrow in his wagon. He tells her he would like to paint a picture of her. He directs her to a mat on the floor to sleep on. When he gets in his big bed and turns on his side to gaze admirably at her, she pulls her knife from it's sheath in a threatening gesture and he turns over and goes to sleep.
The next morning, Cynthia asks Greta why she's in the picture Adams is painting when there's already a cow. Greta explains that the cow is required by the Massachusetts Society and she's in there as the surprise.
Adams tells Cynthia and Greta that he's going out to paint by himself that day. With Onida in the back of his wagon covered with a blanket, he hooks up the milk cow and heads out. He tells the soldiers at the gate that he won't hold them accountable should anything happen to him as a result of the indians being riled up. They decide to go ahead and let him leave the fort.
Out in the countryside, Onida climbs up on the seat next to Adams. She wants to know the nature of his relationship with Cynthia and Greta, as she'd witnessed him kissing them both. She says her people never kiss and she doesn't understand it. He then kisses her and she pulls away and laughs. It tickled and seems odd to her. Onida tells Adams that he's different than other white men and she thinks he has a good heart. She wants him to come to her village and learn about her people and learn how peaceful they are. Adams says he'll go if he can paint what he sees.
At the indian camp, a council is underway. The leaders are discussing recent events. Rokhawah is the most agitated and is itching for a fight. When Adams arrives, Rokhawah insults him, prompting Onida to chastise Rokhawah, as does her brother, Keoga. When Rokhawah slaps Onida, Adams punches him and the fight is on. Rokhawah draws a knife, but Adams evades it and knocks Rokhawah down and takes away the knife, breaking it on a tree trunk.
Chief Kowanen takes a liking to Adams and tells him he's always welcome among his people. Adams offers to paint the indians so he can show other whites the pictures and allow them to get to know the Iroquois better.
When Jonathan does not return to the fort by sundown, nor for the next several days, the women are very upset, especially when the commandant won't send a patrol out to look for him. Agatha astutely figures Adams is either dead or in the arms of some beautiful woman. The commandant tells them that Jonathan had been warned of the danger. Mr. Butler wants to go to the encampment and forcibly search for Adams if need be (an excuse to slaughter them), but Langley says no. Butler tells the people at the fort that they'd better react to the earlier attack at the fort and to Adams' disappearance, or the indians will believe there's no repercussions to fear.
Jonathan is busy painting scenes of indian life at the encampment. He paints a scene of indians signing a traditional song around a campfire as Onida explains it's meaning to him, then the next morning, working shirtless, he paints a group of women washing clothes on the rocks in a nearby stream as another group of young women play what seems to be an early game of Frisbee. Onida is one of the Frisbee players and when Adams teases her by catching the ring and tossing it into the river, the other women join her in pushing him into the water. Adams and Onida end up wrestling around in the water and then kissing on the bank. Rokhawah, returning from a deer hunt, witnesses that and is obviously not pleased.
Rather than send out a patrol to look for Adams, Langley decides to go by himself. He rides over to the indian encampment where he finds Adams painting a picture of the chief and his wife (they are very impressed with the work). Langley tells Chief Kowanen that Mr. Butler is stirring things up at the fort among the soldiers and settlers and they need to be reassured that the Indians have no intent of disturbing the peace. Jonathan offers to go back and explain what's going on. The chief decides that sending his son Keoga along will serve as a demonstration of his peoples' peaceful intent.
As Adams and Keoga ride toward the fort, Butler is lying in wait and ambushes them. He shoots and kills Keoga, then runs off. Adams immediately places Keoga back in his wagon and returns with the body to the indian encampment.
Rokhawah is about to bust with hatred and the desire for revenge now. As the Mohawk Priest (Michael Granger) says a prayer over Keoga's body, Rockaway interrupts and observes how the Iroquois people have not only suffered being killed by the whites but the dead must walk the earth forever because the whites had plowed up all the burial grounds. He calls for war. Chief Kowanen is likewise very upset but he won't go to war unless it's agreed to by the other chiefs. He calls for runners to go out and summon the chiefs to a war council.
As Adams struggles to figure out who might have cause to shoot Keoga, Onida tells Adams about the time Butler came to the encampment and told her father about the arrival of new white settlers and a wagon with rifles. She now fears for the safety of Adams, telling him that if the Iroquois decide to go to war, he will likely be the first one killed and dumped outside the doors of the fort. She wants him to leave, but he refuses and instead runs over to where the war council is going on and tries to dissuade the chiefs from declaring war. They tie him to a tree at the edge of the encampment. The decision has been made to go to war. It's clear that Chief Kowanen has had a distinct change in attitude about his feelings towards Adams, now just another white man.
Onida informs her mother that she loves Adams and will defend him to the death. Minikah seems angry about that at first, then showing great wisdom, she counsels her daughter to go cut Adams loose before he is killed. But, before Onida can do that, Rokhawah approaches Adams and prepares to start a process of slowly cutting and torturing Adams, preparatory to killing him. Onida then sneaks up on Rokhawah from behind and stabs him before he can do any harm to Adams. Onida then sends Adams away, to go warn the people at the fort. He promises to return for her.
Some of the warriors see Jonathan jumping over the encampment wall and three of them give chase. It's a long way to the fort and they all run full tilt the entire way, but Adams is able to get their without being caught.
The indians begin their attack and the settlers take flight, loading up their wagons with their women and children and head for Ft. Alden. The indians burn the abandoned homes and crops, whooping and hollering the entire time.
Langley sends a rider to go find their colonel and bring back more men to help.
Mr. Butler prepares to leave the fort on his own and ride away somewhere to safety. That's when Adams confronts him, suspecting he was the one who shot and killed Keoga and had also earlier told the Iroquois about the rifles in the wagon. Butler doesn't deny any of the accusations, making it apparent that he did do those things, so he's shoved outside the fort on foot, and the gates are barred behind him. As the indians approach the fort, Butler bangs on the doors begging to be let back in, but an arrow hits him in the back and kills him.
The Iroquois rush the fort with homemade ladders, but they are repelled from scaling the walls. However, they massed outside the walls, so the fort gates are ordered open and a cannon is fired point blank into the mass of indians, causing them to lose their fervor and fall back to the edge of the woods.
Cynthia doesn't want Adams to do any fighting, fearing it will kill or injure him so that he can't paint anymore. Greta tells Cynthia that Adams wouldn't amount to much of an artist if he wasn't a man first.
The rider sent out by Langley reaches the colonel and the colonel orders his men to head for Ft. Alden. Meanwhile, the Iroquois have re-gathered for another attack. They find some powder kegs and place them near the gates of the fort and set them off. That causes a fire that results in Langley ordering everyone to fall back and get inside the buildings. The indians then climb over the stockade walls and open the gates. It's not long before they break into the buildings and the fighting becomes hand-to-hand. That's when the colonel and other men arrive and turn the tide. Lots of people are hurt or killed, but the battle has ended.
Chief Kowanen is speaking about how the fight was such a waste and he believes that neither side won. Adams comes forward carrying the dead body of Butler and dumps it at the chief's feet, explaining that it was the man who killed Keoga. The chief announces that too many people had died already because of that man and peace is re-established.
Adams sends more than his contracted 20 paintings back to Boston with Cynthia and Agatha. Both Cynthia and Greta had come to the understanding that Adams wasn't interested in marrying either one of them and that he was choosing to stay there.
Adams heads back to the Iroquois encampment where he marries Onida. Chief Kowanen and his wife Minikah inform Adams that he is now like a son to them and they have given him an Iroquois name: Keoga.