The tragedy of the fate of the North American Indian is well known. Most of that race were killed off at the end of the 19th century, either swiftly by the White-man's soldiers, or slowly by the White-man's diseases. Those left behind in a world which was strange to them either sought work in the cities or stayed in reservations, with little to do but brood about the past.
In Three Warriors Michael, a teenage boy, has migrated to the city where his widowed mother works. His father died of drink and his grandfather, an old chief, lives on in a reservation.
Michael returns to the reservation with great reluctance and his gradual change of heart, from contempt and hatred to appreciation and love of the old ways represented by his grandfather, forms the major part of this film.
From the very start, even before the titles, we know that we are in the world of the horse, and of wild mustangs at that, beautiful animals running free in the mountain country of Oregon. We are made sharply aware that the air here is clear, the forests primeval, the mountain streams unpolluted and limpid.
But experience tells us that when "every prospect pleases", you can count on man being his vile self and spoiling it all. This rude incursion of man the polluter, the greedy commercial wrecker, the brutal killer of wildlife is represented by a gang of particularly vile horse-stealers. Helmeted and visored their motor-bikes shatter the ear drums, they kick up dust and ruthlessly raid the enclosed zone, stealing the protected species to sell on the hoof or as carcases for meat. How Michael and a sympathetic Ranger deal with this new invasion into the peace and harmony of the Indian world provides the intriguing second half of the story.
One of the first American films to cast American Indians in major roles, Three Warriors has been praised for portraying American Indian people not as villains, but as human beings.
Director Kieth Merrill makes the most of the gorgeous scenery round Warm Springs, Oregon, and of the film's strong social and ecological message.