In late 1823, Hugh Glass guides Andrew Henry's trappers through unorganized territory. While he and his half-Pawnee son, Hawk, are hunting, the company's camp is attacked by an Arikara war party seeking to recover their Chief's abducted daughter. Guided by Glass, the survivors travel on foot to Fort Kiowa, as he believes traveling downriver will make them vulnerable. After docking, the crew stashes the pelts near the shore.
While scouting game, Glass is attacked by a grizzly bear and left near death. Trapper John Fitzgerald, fearful of another Arikara attack, argues that the group must mercy-kill Glass and keep moving. Henry agrees, but is unable to pull the trigger; instead, he offers money for someone to stay with Glass and bury him after his death. When the only volunteers are Hawk and the young Jim Bridger, Fitzgerald agrees to stay for money, to recoup his losses from the abandoned pelts.