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Ben Reifel


Ben Reifel, born in a log cabin near Parmelee on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in 1906, was the first Lakota to ever serve in the US House of Representatives. In fact, during the 1960s he was the lone American Indian in Congress.

Reifel, who died of cancer in 1990, graduated from SDSU with a degree in agriculture in 1932.

In 1933, he joined the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a farm agent on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. A year later, he was promoted to field agent at the regional headquarters in Pierre. He retired from the bureau in 1960 while serving as the area administrator in Aberdeen.

Following his career with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Reifel ran for Congress and was easily elected to five terms. When his fifth term was coming to a close, and reaching the age of 65, he chose not to run in 1970.