Ronald G. Lewis

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Dr. Ronald Lewis (born 1941) was the first American Indian to receive a Ph.D. in the field of social work (which he received from the University of Denver) in 1974,[1] was declared a NASW Social Work Pioneer, and has become known as the “Father of American Indian Social Work.”

In addition, he was the first American Indian tenured in the University of Wisconsin system,[2][3] first American Indian Full Professor in the field of Social Work, and first American Indian to hold the position of "Dean" in Canada.

Born in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, Dr. Lewis had his first academic appointment in 1975 at the University of Oklahoma, School of Social Work.[4] From there Dr. Lewis was tenured at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, Arizona State University, and at the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College as Dean. Additionally, Dr. Lewis has guest lectured across the country at universities for 30 years.

Beyond the academic world, Dr. Lewis was a psychiatric social worker who developed mental health programs for American Indians at the Tahlequah and Claremore Indian Hospitals in Oklahoma and later for the state of Oklahoma. As the director of the Indian Liaison Office at the Fitzsimons Medical Hospital in Denver, he worked with returning American Indian Vietnam veterans. Dr. Lewis also trained hospital and medical personnel about culturally appropriate services for American Indians. Always a political activist, during this time Dr. Lewis was also at the Wounded Knee Incident in 1973 and the Alcatraz takeover.

Landmark legislation concerning culturally appropriate services for American Indian people is an important part Dr. Lewis’s work.[5] Well known as a leading expert on American Indian social problems, he has published extensively on federal policy in Indian Country, child abuse and neglect, and alcoholism and the American Indian (which became a special report to the U.S. Congress in 1980). He and his work also contributed to the creation of the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978. Dr. Lewis has made contributions to American Indian issues at every level, including meetings with U.S. presidents, reports to Congress, and creating curriculum at universities.


  1. ^ Jerome Bailey (25 May 1978). "Indians Question Health Care". Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved 18 March 2011. 
  2. ^ Jim Morice (23 May 1977). "Indian Pioneer in Academia". Milwaukee Sentinel. Retrieved 1 May 2012. 
  3. ^ Bill Hurley (25 February 1980). "Program Teaches Indians to Assist Indians". Milwaukee Sentinel. Retrieved 1 May 2012. 
  4. ^ "Ronad G. Lewis, DSW." NASW Foundation. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
  5. ^ Barbara Dembski (22 March 1981). "Filling Roles May Lead to Alcoholism". Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved 1 May 2012.