When Little Elk, a Pawnee, is fifteen, his father is killed by the warring Sioux. On the verge of manhood, he suddenly is filled with trepidation as he embarks on the journey to Pike's Peak which will initiate him into adulthood. He mistrusts the Gods who have allowed his father to die and is no longer secure in the thought that they are his invincible protectors. His journey to the mountains, battles with youths of other tribes, and his final understanding that the Gods allow man a high degree of discretion in his own destiny imbue him with a firm conviction that he is now a man and that in this role lies great valor. A revealing depiction of life within the Indian societies during the time of Pike's explorations merges here with a sensitive study of adolescence.