Skip to main content
Menu
Close Search

Ben Reifel: Service

Representative Ben Reifel received the distinguished service award from Americans for Constitutional Action
Representative Ben Reifel received the distinguished service award from Americans for Constitutional Action.

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.

1961 Department of the Interior’s Distinguished Service Award
Ben Reifel received the Department of the Interior’s Distinguished Service Award in 1961.

Ben Reifel receives the All American Indian Days award for Outstanding American Indian of the Year in 1956.
Ben Reifel receives the All American Indian Days award for Outstanding American Indian of the Year in 1956.

"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.

Indian Council Fire Achievement Award Ceremony in 1971.
Indian Council Fire Achievement Award Ceremony in 1971.

Ben Reifel speaks during his swearing in ceremony as Special Assistant for Indian programs to the Director of the National Park Service in the Department of the Interior.
Ben Reifel speaks during his swearing in ceremony as Special Assistant for Indian Programs to the Director of the National Park Service.

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. 

Representative Ben Reifel receives an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of South Dakota in 1971.
Representative Ben Reifel receives an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of South Dakota in 1971.

Honorary Degrees

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.

Ben Reifel’s honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of South Dakota
Ben Reifel’s honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of South Dakota
Ben Reifel at Hobo Day, 1931

Education

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