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Ben Reifel: US Congressman

U.S. Congress in Session
Members of the U.S. Congress in a session in the 1960s.

Congressional Career

In 1960, Ben Reifel resigned from the Bureau of Indian Affair to run for Congress from the First District, South Dakota. He was elected by a landslide by over 20,000 votes.

Ben was a politically popular figure, and it showed in the continuous support he received in every election. Ben was considered a conservative Republican and was always well prepared on legislative matters. He was the first U.S. legislator of Oceti Sakowin ancestry to serve in Congress and the only Indian in Congress through the 1960’s.

 

Reifel at the state fair in Huron, SD

 

Ben Reifel served for five terms as Representative from South Dakota's First Congressional District. He was elected by a landslide of votes in 1960 and continued to be politically popular throughout his career.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 He was the first person of Sioux ancestry to serve in Congress and worked with notable political figures such as Richard Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Gerald R. Ford, who fully supported him during his time in Congress. Because of his dedication to American Indian issues, he was awarded several awards throughout his career. 

Issues and Committees

U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture
Ben Riefel was on the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture in 1961-1962.

While a member of Congress, Ben Reifel had several important committee assignments. During his first term, he was appointed to the House Agricultural Committee. In his second term he was appointed to the House Committee on Appropriations. He also served as ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior Department Affairs. He worked for farming interests, pushed for the Oahe Irrigation Projects, and supported the Civil Rights Act of 1966.

Ben Reifel worked hard for farming interests in South Dakota and the other Midwestern states. He opposed cuts in farm support programs and backed the Oahe irrigation program. He was also a committed advocate for American Indian education.

 

 

Congressional Connections

Ben Reifel was respected by all he worked with in Congress. Ben knew and worked with notable political figures such as Richard Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Gerald R. Ford, who fully supported him during his time in Congress. They personally wrote him to congratulate him on his victories during his elections and re-elections. They also praised him for the work he did in Congress and would even send him letters for his birthday. Ben knew John F. Kennedy and attended his Inauguration in 1961.

Travels

As Congressman, Ben Reifel not only traveled all over the U.S. to meet with other officials, he also traveled all over the world. He visited places in Asia, Europe, and Africa. His wife, Alice often accompanied him on these trips.

While a member of Congress, Ben Reifel had several important committee assignments. During his first term, he was appointed to the House Agricultural Committee. In his second term he was appointed to the House Committee on Appropriations. He also served as ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior Department Affairs. He worked for farming interests, pushed for the Oahe Irrigation Projects, and supported the Civil Rights Act of 1966.

Ben Reifel worked hard for farming interests in South Dakota and the other Midwestern states. He opposed cuts in farm support programs and backed the Oahe irrigation program. He was also a committed advocate for American Indian education.