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In ‘Standing Strong,’ Native teen takes on pipelines, suicide

Author Gary Robinson, who is of Choctaw/Cherokee descent, recently saw an opportunity to write a teen novel based on themes that, for some, could be categorized as mundane (the environment) and intense (suicide).

But “Standing Strong” follows lead character Rhonda Runningcrane through a journey that is far from boring, although there are certainly intense moments.

Robinson uses the Dakota Access Pipeline protests at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the Dakotas as a backbone of the story. While the book is a work of fiction, it is loosely-based on the Standing Rock protests and #NoDAPL movement.

Standing Strong incorporates themes of sovereignty and resistance within the real life fight still underway for environmental justice concerning several pipeline issues Native Americans have in the U.S. and Canada.

The book explores issues of the environment and teen suicide. (Images courtesy Gary Robinson)

Robinson also challenges the mass media, arguing it has often ignored Native Americans and made Indigenous issues virtually invisible.

When the Native American topics do surface, Robinson argues, they are almost never addressed from a Native perspective.

But instead of ignoring issues that Native teens sometimes face – abuse, suicide, oppression and isolation – Robinson’s characters experience it and find courage and resilience in the process.

“This is a remarkable story in which Native teens can see themselves and non-Native readers can glimpse what life can be like for their Native counterparts,” the book’s publicists said in a statement. “With a female teen protagonist, Standing Strong breaks from formulaic tales to feature a contemporary character that crosses barriers of gender and transcends conventional notions of determination and fortitude.”

Author Gary Robinson (Images courtesy Gary Robinson)

Standing Strong is one of 20 titles, and counting, in the PathFinders collection of novels for young adults.

Robinson is an award-winning writer and filmmaker who has participated in the production of dozens of Native American educational, informational and documentary TV projects. He has written 16 books, including seven PathFinders teen novels.

Robinson operates Tribal Eye Productions, which creates Native American content, and is located in Santa Ynez, California.

Standing Strong is available to purchase on Amazon. For more information, go to

Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at