Alton (Sonny) Smart



M.S.W., University of Minnesota - Duluth
B.S.W., University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
Postgraduate Training in Family Therapy, Madison, Wisconsin
State Certified third party therapist
Tribal Judge Training - National Judicial College (1986)


Alton “Sonny” Smart is an Anishinabe educator who occupies many roles in native and non native communities. He is first and foremost a father, husband, son, uncle, and grandson. He is a Tribal Judge; a United States Army (Airborne) Vietnam Veteran; He holds positions on Ojibwa ceremonial Big Drum and Midewiwin medicine societies. He is a member of the Band River Band of Chippewa of Wisconsin, where he was born into the Fish Clan. His spiritual names of Ozaawaa Na quad and later a Menominee tribal name of Notnowgiishick, when he was adopted into the Menominee tribe.

He is a Professor of Social work at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. (1990) Where he coordinates the Native American Rural & Social Work program and Native American Family Institute. He teaches courses in Native American Social work, child Welfare, problems in family interaction and other social work. He has under-graduate and graduate degrees in the social work, sociology and has post-graduate training in Family Therapy. He is state certified as a third party therapist in individual, family and group therapy. He has served as an expert witness in many Indian Child welfare cases and has done numerous cultural assessment in such cases.

He has worked for various Wisconsin Tribes in many capacities; such as clinical social worker, director of alcohol and drug prevention, in-home family therapist, director of family and counseling services, high school guidance counselor, school cultural specialist, health careers recruiter. He served in the United States Army Airborne field medic in Vietnam and Germany. He has served as a Tribal Judge for the Bad River Band since 1985 where he currently Senior Associate Tribal Judge.

He currently does consultant work in the areas of tribal mental health, Indian child welfare, treatment modalities in working with tribal families, alcohol and drug intervention and prevention, cultural parenting programs, Indian education and cultural teaching styles, community and program development, Peacemaking in the tribal courts.

He has done work in the areas of tribal leadership development and supervision. He has provided training to tribal, state, federal and private social service and educational agencies and organizations through out the Midwest regional and national levels. He has done training in cultural sensitivity and cultural competency. He has developed assessment tools to assist in evaluating child welfare and counseling tribal clients. He conceptualized and co-authored the Family Circles Woodland Parenting manual using the cultural paradigm as the main learning paradigm.

Sonny has a unique style of blending his cultural knowledge and heritage with the western paradigm of helping. He is able to help bridge the gap between the two worlds in a humorous and non-threatening way through his use of cultural stories of song and dance and life stories of his Anishinabe people. He has been attending and dancing at powwows through out the country for over 40 years in traditional and grass dance categories as well as serving as head judge, head Veteran and Arena Director and Master of Ceremonies.

Research Areas

  • American Indian family systems using a cultural paradigm as the model for assessment.
  • Using a culturally developed parenting model “Woodland Parenting model” as a model for working with tribal families and communities
  • Assessing cultural parenting styles from “traditional families to acculturated institutional boarding school behaviors
  • Cultural leadership styles and Supervision
  • Minobiimaadiziwin: What is good Indian mental health?


  • Member of state of Wisconsin ICWA advisory committee on codification of ICWA in to the state Children’s code chapter 48
  • Honored by Wisconsin Tribal Domestic Violence Coalition for support and work in domestic violence in tribal communities and by the HoChunk Nation
  • State certified as third party therapist in individual, family, and group counseling
  • United States Army Vietnam Veteran – 1970-73
  • Cultural Educator in the areas of Dance, singing, Arts and Crafts, History and Tribal language (specifically Ojibway)
  • Wisconsin Indian Educator of the year - 1987