Corn Flower, an eleven-year-old Native American girl, is a member of the Kansa tribe living along the Cottonwood River in the 1820s. When winter arrives on the Great Plains, Corn Flower and her best friend Night Sparrow build a sled to challenge their brothers in a hillside race. Because of the icy temperatures, many activities such as bead making, storytelling, and completing the winter count for the yearly history of their tribe remain in their family lodge. As the ice pack hardens, the children participate in the snow snake as they throw a long rod or stick down a narrow channel in the snow. When a stray coyote attacks Corn Flower and her goat along the river, she is saved by her horse Brownie. Along with her father and brothers, Corn Flower travels to the trading post. On her return home, Corn Flower is startled to find that the tribal storyteller Walks at Night has fallen in the snow. Corn Flower nurses Walks at Night back to health by using her wild crafting skills with herbs and roots for healing. At the shell ceremony Corn Flower and Night Sparrow each receive a new shell on their necklace for surviving their twelfth winter season on the Great Plains.