A Career of Service
Ben Reifel’s career consisted of many years of faithful service, especially for American Indians. Because of his service, he was awarded the Outstanding American Indian Award in 1956, the Annual Indian Achievement Award by the Indian Council Fire in 1960, and the Department of the Interior’s Distinguished Service Award in 1961 for his exceptional career in the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
"Whereas, this honor accorded Mr. Reifel is well deserved for his activity on behalf of Indian People and for the example he is setting for other Indians…” Robert Burnette, Committee Chairman, Outstanding American Indian Award.
Service After Retirement
Ben Reifel retired from Congress after serving five terms. He was then appointed by President Nixon to serve as the nation’s first Assistant Interior Secretary for Indian and Territorial Affairs. Along with this, Reifel agreed to serve as assistant to George B. Hartzog, the Director of the National Park Service. Many members of Congress supported Ben in this endeavor, and many wrote to congratulate him on his appointment.
After his retirement in 1970, Ben was honored by several South Dakota colleges and universities. He received honorary doctorates from South Dakota State University, the University of South Dakota, and Northern State College.
Learn more about Ben Reifel's life of service to others by diving into his papers. A large selection of the Benjamin Reifel Papers is available online through the Digital Library of South Dakota.