In 1880, a party of European aristocrats on a hunting expedition arrives at an Apache reservation in New Mexico. Their "white hunter" guide, Bosky Fulton, knows that their presence violates a territorial treaty with the Indians. French Countess Irina Lazaar separates from the group to hunt for bigger game, is threatened by Indians, and is saved only by the appearance of Shalako, a former cavalry officer turned guide who has been sent by the Army to oust the intruders. The party's leader, Frederick von Hallstatt, refuses to heed the warning, a decision that results in an Apache raid. Shalako sends up smoke signals, and the Indians retreat before killing the Europeans; but Fulton takes off in the last remaining stagecoach with the ammunition, the supplies, and Lady Julia, the adulterous wife of Englishman Sir Charles Daggett. Shalako returns and rounds up the survivors, hoping to get them to the safety of the nearest fort. Meanwhile, the Apaches, led by Chato, the chief's son, attack the stagecoach and kill Lady Julia by forcing her to swallow her own diamonds. Fulton escapes and makes his way to Shalako's group, but he is shot dead by Daggett. Eventually, Chato demands a final test of strength by challenging Shalako to single combat with spears; but when Shalako gets the upper hand, the chief intervenes and orders his men to retreat in exchange for his son's life. Later, when the Europeans finally leave the reservation, Irina chooses to ride off with Shalako.