Cresta Maribel Lee (Candice Bergen) was kept by the Cheyenne Natives for two years. Now on a wagon escorted by Union soldiers, she is heading to Fort Reunion to join her awaiting fiance when suddenly the convoy is attacked. In the turmoil, she is able to escape and hides behind some bushes by a hillside. All the 21 soldiers are killed with one exception: Honus Gant (Peter Strauss), who has managed to escape and hide also. After the Cheyenne leave, Honus and Cresta walk among the corpses; she apparently unmoved, while he, in tears, appalled, offers a prayer for the dead. She looks at him in disbelief.
And so, they begin their journey of survival through the wilderness towards the Fort. At the same time, their differences begin to show up. Honus is a simpleton in uniform. Prude, naive, and idealist, he believes in the mission of the army against “the savages”. Contrary to his personality, Cresta is a sassy survivor who has learned by experience and doesn’t waste time in politeness or social expectations. She has been a wife to Chief Spotted Wolf (Jorge Rivero) and questions Honus about who the real savages are while describing to him the things she has witnessed although he remains incredulous.
After surviving two more attacks: one by Natives, the other by a post trader, they become closer to each other. Soon, Honus falls in love with beautiful Cresta, “the traitor”, as he has called her, and too soon, he painfully learns the truth of Cresta’s words when they first met. Horrified and helpless, Honus watches the carnage, the massacre of mostly women and children by the Cavalry.
Based on the true event that took place on November 29, 1864 at Sand Creek, Colorado, taken from the novel Arrow in The Sun by Theodore V. Olsen, this forgotten film directed by Ralph Nelson in 1970, shows how in the name of “freedom, prosperity, and civilization” a peaceful Native village was massacred while the Cavalry entered trampling on an American flag once given to Chief Spotted Wolf as a sign of peace. Made in the midst of the Vietnam War era, this film remains a historic denounce of the bullying nature so many times displayed by our government and its enforcers and watched helplessly by the people just as Honus did.
See also directed by Ralph Nelson: Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962), Lilies of the Field (1963), The Wilby Conspiracy (1975)
See also Candice Bergen in: The Wind and the Lion (1975), The Sand Peebles (1966)
See also Peter Strauss in: Joan of Arc (1999), Masada (1981), A Whale for the Killing (1981)