Benjamin Reifel was born on September 19, 1906 in a log cabin on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. His father, William Reifel, was German-American and his Mother, Lucy Burning Breast, was a full-blooded Lakota Sioux. Ben was an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. His Indian name was Lone Feather.
In Ben's 83 years he would graduate from South Dakota State College, rise through the ranks of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, serve his country in World War II and in Congress. The various pages listed below highlight a specific aspect of his life, from his family through his political career.
Prior to graduating from South Dakota State College, Ben attended both a Rosebud Reservation Boarding School and a county school.
In 1960, Ben Reifel resigned from the BIA in order to run for Congress from South Dakota's First District. He was elected in a landslide victory and served five terms as the state's Representatives. He was the first U.S. legislator of Sioux ancestry.
Ben remained very active after leaving Congress, accepting an appointment by President Nixon as chairman of the National Capital Planning Commission, and speaking at numerous occasions such as graduations and Memorial Day services.
In 1977, Ben became a trustee of the South Dakota Art Museum in Brookings, SD and served terms as their board president from 1982-1983. He established the first Native American collection at the Art Museum in 1977, donating most of his personal collection.
Ben died of cancer at the age of 83 in 1990. To honor him, South Dakota State University named one of its dormitories after him. A middle school in Sioux Falls that is currently being built will also be named after him. In 2017, Governor Dennis Dauggard named September 19thas Ben Reifel Day to honor him.