Benjamin Reifel was born in Parmelee in 1906. His mother was a Brulé Lakota. His father was a German American. Reifel went to South Dakota State College in Brookings. He was student president. After college, he worked for the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. He helped tribes set up their governments. Then the Second World War began. Reifel joined the United States Army. He served as an officer in Europe. After the war, he went back to work for the bureau. He was in charge of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He was also a member of the Republican party. He was a good speaker. He could get people to agree with one other. South Dakotans elected him to the United States House of Representatives. The year was 1960. Reifel was the first American Indian from the state to serve in Congress. The voters elected him four more times. In Congress, Reifel helped to keep Ellsworth Air Force Base open. He helped to bring the EROS Data Center to the state. He worked for better schools and hospitals on Indian reservations. He retired from Congress in 1970. For much of his life, Reifel helped Indians and non-Indians get along better. He died in 1990.

Benjamin Reifel
Photo courtesy of South Dakota State Historical Society