It is spring, 1864. Johnathan and Esher, paramours, survived serving in the Civil War as Union soldiers, and now they are on their way to achieve their dream: homesteading on land in the Dakota Territory, together. Togetherness is Johnathan's dream, just he and Esher, living, loving, and farming their land.
Esher's dream is to have a family. While on a wagon train, he met Gladys and found a mother. Now the three of them will be homesteading. But Esher also wants a wife and children. They meet Bethany and her two children; it is a dramatic meeting. It looks like a family is in the making.
Johnathan fights for his dream. This puts him at odds with Gladys, Bethany, and lastly, Esher. His fight is especially painful because it resurrects the demons that have plagued him since he was a boy-buried memories of his murdered mother at the hands of his father, and the misery of cold bones he acquired from his father's "touch." He feels compelled to preserve his mother's legacy, her screams and blood, but to do this he must keep the "cold" he inherited from his father.
It is admirable that Johnathan will fight for his dream, but his efforts threaten to wreak havoc on the newly formed family. Something has to give. Something has to go. The adage is that love heals, and Sweetgrass is a love story.