Rusty Sabin was a child when Cheyenne Indians raided the Sabin homestead and killed his mother. Just before she died, she put a rawhide cord with a green scabbard around his neck. Raised by Spotted Antelope and Bitter Root, Rusty, now known as Red Hawk, refuses the compulsory and brutal initiation into the tribe when he is 15. Abandoned as dead by his Cheyenne family, Red Hawk takes the advice of a white trader and rides to Witherell, the nearest settlement of whites.
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Rusty Sabin extracts two bags of gold from the Sacred Valley, partly to spend on Maisry Lester, the girl he hopes to marry. When frontiersman Charlie Galway tries to steal the gold, Galway murders Maisry's father and blames Rusty's friend, Standing Bull.
Rusty Sabin, born to white parents, was brought up by the Cheyenne Indians who had given the young red-headed boy the name Red Hawk. His ability to heal the sick and make strange magic were widely honored throughout the tribe. But in his twenties, Red Hawk set out to take his place among white people.