Bureau of Indian Affairs
After graduating from South Dakota State College, Ben Reifel started his career in the service of the Bureau of Indian Affairs when he was appointed “farm agent” at Oglala on the Pine Ridge reservation. He was then promoted to “Field Agent” where he was assigned to promote new programs under the Indian Reorganization Act. Though there were many who did not like this act, Ben was successful in winning support for it. Because he spoke the Sioux Language, knew the people and had many relatives and friends, Ben was given the responsibility to make the programs of the Bureau effective on South Dakota reservations.
Ben Reifel was active in Boy Scouts for many years. He served as president of Boy Scouts of America’s Pheasant Council, was a member of the executive committee of the North Central Region and served as chairman of a BSA Indian Advisory committee. He also served as a member of the National American Indian Relationships Committee. He received four of the highest awards that a Boy Scout could receive for his continuous service over the years: Silver Wolf, Silver Beaver, Silver Antelope, and the Silver Buffalo. The Silver Buffalo award, which is the top award for outstanding service to youth, was awarded to Ben in May of 1984.
Silver Antelope Award
Silver Beaver Award
Silver Buffalo Award
Silver Wolf Award
During his time in the BIA, World War II started and Ben Reifel was inducted into the United States Army in 1942. He served for four and a half years with distinction in France and Germany. He also achieved the rank of Lt. Colonel. He received these battleship coins for his service in the army.
battleship coin side 1
battleship coin side 2
Learn more about Ben Reifel's life before representing South Dakota in Washington by diving into his papers. A large selection of the Benjamin Reifel Papers is available online through the Digital Library of South Dakota.