In the story, Bright Morning and her tribe are ordered to leave their canyon home. American soldiers (called Long Knives) announce that they will escort Bright Morning's Navajo tribe to Fort Sumner.
Despite their grief, Bright Morning and her family know that they must do as they're told. Along the way, many of the older Navajos die. In addition, Bright Morning and her tribe hear terrible rumors of Indians massacred in their sleep.
The journey to Fort Sumner is long. However, Bright Morning's tribe has little choice but to press on. They eventually arrive at Bosque Redondo, a piece of land that also holds Fort Sumner (an American military fort).
At Bosque Redondo, the Navajos are interned and guarded by soldiers who are stationed at Fort Sumner. History tells us that the forced march to Bosque Redondo claimed many Navajo lives.
At the internment camp, the soil is poor and unsuitable for large-scale farming. As a result, many of the Navajo die of starvation and disease. In chapter 20, we learn that Tall Boy's father exchanges a belt of silver and turquoise for an old speckled horse. The animal once belonged to an American soldier.
Tall Boy acquires permission to use the horse to help buttress the family hut belonging to Bright Morning's family. Because of his generosity and resilience, Bright Morning's mother begins to soften towards him.
Oblivious to his injuries (which he sustained while saving Bright Morning from Spanish slave traders), Tall Boy works to buttress the roof and walls of the hut with willow poles. Because of this, he earns the admiration and gratitude of Bright Morning's mother.