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Ben Reifel: Education

Representative Ben Reifel promoting 1961 Hobo Day at the United States Capitol.
U.S. Representative Ben Reifel holding a 1961 South Dakota State College Hobo Day bumper sticker by the license plates on his car.

Ben Reifel attended both a Rosebud Reservation Boarding School and a county school. He graduated from the eighth grade at 16 and spoke both the Lakota and English languages. After working on his parents' farm for a few years, Ben finished high school and graduated at the age of 22. Immediately following his graduation, Ben enrolled at South Dakota State College. He paid his own way through college with help from one of the first loans made available to American Indians. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture in 1932. Later, during his time at the BIA, he was awarded a scholarship from Harvard University where he received his master’s degree in 1950 and his Ph.D. in 1952.

Ben Reifel dressed as a hobo, 1931.
Ben Reifel dressed as a hobo in 1931.

Ben was very active during his time at South Dakota State College. He served as class president his junior year and was involved in various campus activities and organizations, such as Agricultural Club, Alpha Zeta, Little International, Officers’ Mess, Board of Control, and Scabbard and Blade. He especially loved to take part in Hobo Day. Long after he graduated and was elected to Congress, Ben still promoted Hobo Day at the capital. Ben continued to be a part of South Dakota State College by returning for hobo day whenever he could, and speaking at and attending other events on campus. In 1964, the school’s president, Hilton M. Briggs, visited Ben at the capital.

Representatives Ben Reifel and E.Y. Berry with South Dakota State University President Hilton M. Briggs on the steps of the US Capitol in 1964.
Left to right: U.S. Representative E.Y. Berry, South Dakota State University President Hilton M. Briggs,
Lillian Briggs, Alice Reifel, and  Ben Reifel on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
Ben Reifel at Hobo Day, 1931


Representative Ben Reifel, his wife, Alice Reifel, his daughter, Loyce, and his three granddaughters

Family Life

Ben Reifel in his Bureau of Indian Affairs office within the Pine Ridge Reservation, 1954

Early Career

Ben Reifel reading an Aberdeen American News newspaper heading declaring him as the winner of the 1960 Republican primary

Congressional Career

Indian Council Fire Achievement Award Ceremony in 1971

Career of Service

Ben Reifel

Life of Ben Reifel