Who Was Ben Reifel, the Namesake For Sioux Falls Newest School?
Ben Reifel School is ready to receive its first class of students when the doors open this fall on the east side of Sioux Falls. Many people, myself included, are wondering whom the Sioux Empire's newest middle school is named after?
It's quite interesting and would make a fine movie.
Ben Reifel was born in a log cabin on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in 1906. His Lakota name was 'Lone feather' born to a woman named Lucy Burning Breast. He spoke two languages as a child learning both English and Lakota. He worked hard on his family farm near Rosebud before enrolling in the School of Agriculture near Brookings in 1928. He graduated 4 years later as class president. After graduation, he worked as an advisor for boys in Mission, SD.
When the Indian Reorganization Act was signed by President Roosevelt in 1934, Reifel began working furiously for Indian land rights and helped tribes set up governments.
World War II got underway and he was commissioned in the Army where he was called upon to serve his country - which he willfully accomplished and promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.
After being discharged, he made his way to North Dakota and accepted the job as superintendent of Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. It was there that he accepted a scholarship to Harvard and earned his master's degree in 1949. He returned to Pine Ridge shortly thereafter and became superintendent of Pine Ridge Reservation.
With all of these accomplishments, politics was a natural transition for Reifel. He easily won the election for South Dakota's 1st congressional district and was the only American Indian in Congress in the 1960s. One of his big accomplishments was to get the Center for Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) to set up shop in South Dakota. It's still in operation in the northeast part of Sioux Falls to this day.
When President Nixon called to ask Reifel to chair the National Capital Planning Commission, he put his retirement plans on hold. After a stint in Washington DC., he continued work for the National Park Service and the Boy Scouts of America.
After a very successful career, Reifel died of cancer two days into the year 1990.
You may have seen his name touring the Badlands of South Dakota. Ben Reifel Visitor Center in Badlands National Park is a popular stop while taking the scenic route.
Now, his name and legacy live on as the namesake for Sioux Falls' newest middle school located on the east side. This year, 2021, will be the first class to see inside the new school.
historical source: Wikipedia
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