September 15, 2017
PIERRE, S.D. – Gov. Dennis Daugaard has proclaimed Sept. 19, 2017, as Ben Reifel (Lone Feather) Day in South Dakota.
“From humble beginnings, Ben Reifel was a true Lakota leader,” said SD Secretary of Tribal Relations Steve Emery. “The State of South Dakota looks to honor this dedicated public servant, war hero and former U.S. representative on his birthday for working diligently for the betterment of all South Dakotans and U.S. citizens.
A member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Ben Reifel was born on Sept. 19, 1906, in a log cabin near Parmelee, South Dakota. He attended college at South Dakota State College and later served from 1942 to 1946 during WWII, attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Reifel would go on to work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs for 20 years as a farm agent, field agent, tribal relations officer and finally as superintendent of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota. Reifel also attended Harvard University where he earned a master’s degree and a doctorate.
After retiring from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Ben Reifel ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1960 and was elected by a substantial margin, he served as a representative for 10 years. He was the first person of Lakota descent to serve in Congress and the first Native American to represent South Dakota.
Reifel was instrumental in locating the U.S. Geological Survey’s Earth Resources Observation and Science Data Center in South Dakota, in gaining support to keep Ellsworth Air Force Base, and in securing passage of legislation that created the National Endowment of the Humanities and the National Arts Council.
“Ben Reifel embodied the spirit of the Dakotas and his contributions to this state and country continue to make a difference for many of our citizens,” Emery said.