After violently attacking a fellow officer Lt. Edward Garnett, cavalry Captain Kern Shafter is court martialled. Later, he rejoins the army with Custer's regiment at Fort Lincoln, Dakota, becoming a sergeant, where he runs into his old foe.
In El Paso, lawyer and ex-Confederate captain Clay Fletcher forms a vigilante group to bring law and order to a town where the judge is a drunk, the sheriff is corrupt and the town is run by a crooked landowner.
In Wyoming Territory, army Major Ives and his men are building a temporary camp. The civilian surveyor, Mr. Keats is making preparations for the construction of a large permanent fort. However, the future fort is being erected on Cheyenne lands, in defiance of the treaty. Adam Reed is a self employed scout with friendly ties to the Cheyenne. Upset about the construction of the new fort on their lands, the Cheyenne ask scout Reed to contact Major Ives and deliver their message of grievance to him. The symbolic message consists of a yellow tomahawk as a warning against the building of a new fort in the area. Reed delivers the warning message to Major Ives but he is not taken serious. Major Ives lectures Reed about the need of bringing civilization to the lands that otherwise would go to waste under the savages. Reed retorts that Major Ives' only duty is to escort wagon trains of settlers passing through Cheyenne territory rather than build new forts in violation of the treaty. Reed also...Written by
Although color would have been nice for this western shot on location in Kanab, Utah, The Yellow Tomahawk is no frills, brutal, and bloody western about some survivors of a massacre trying to make it home to safety. The Cheyennes however are only retaliating for the infamous Sand Creek Massacre in which the commanding officer had a big part. The commander is Major Warner Anderson who has some real issues of his own.
Rory Calhoun and Noah Beery, Jr. play a couple of scouts who see the problem, but are helpless with Anderson's intransigence and stupidity. Anderson even after Sand Creek is now building an army fort on Cheyenne land and the Cheyenne don't take kindly to that. They send the army warning signal of The Yellow Tomahawk which is their way of saying clear out. The scenes of the massacre of the cavalry and some civilians including women is not for the squeamish.
Peggie Castle and Rita Moreno play the women paired with Calhoun and Beery. Peter Graves is a shifty gold prospector. But the film belongs to Warner Anderson, this might be his career role. You won't believe why he ordered the Sand Creek massacre, but it's actually curiously relevant to issues coming before the Supreme Court to be rendered as I write this.
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