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Without Reservation

Benjamin Reifel and American Indian Acculturation

Without Reservation


$29.95, Hardback
ISBN: 978-1-941813-14-0

"Flynn offers a robust biography of Benjamin Reifel, . . . [articulating] a nuanced view of the relationship between Reife's thoughts and actions. . . . Specialists and general readers will enjoy Without Reservation, and it is sure to inspire robust conversations about regional history and the possibilities for the future of Indian Country."—Eric Steven Zimmer, Annals of Iowa

"In the last several years, academic presses have published numerous biographies of Native peoples, and this one is a welcome addition as it focuses on a Native American man who lived and worked in the twentieth century, an often under-represented period. . . Flynn weaved a general history of Native Americans in the twentieth century. . . . Reifel's choices are important to understand, as the issues raised in the book continue to resonate into the present day."—Montana the Magazine of Western History

"When Professor Sean Flynn, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, released his book . . . I was quick to snag a copy. I was fascinated by the story of the first Congressman of Lakota Sioux descent."—Representative Dusty Johnson

"Without Reservation deserves especial praise for its researched, unbiased description of all sides of the complex political, social, and legislative issues that Reifel and his political opponents dealt with . . . thoroughly accessible to readers of all backgrounds. Highly recommended."—Midwest Book Review

"Without Reservation is truly an insightful book. It tells the story of a man, who worked tirelessly for his people, the Lakota, and all American Indians."—Lakota Country Times

"From its title onward, Without Reservation is a book that invites debate about the past, present and future of Native Americans."—Seth Tupper, Rapid City Journal (read the entire review and interview here)

“This fascinating book does not disappoint. Well-written and well conceived, it contains the broad context of Indian-white relations, federal Indian policy, and national, regional, and local politics. I know much about this subject, but I learned a great deal more from Flynn’s work.”
—Michael L. Lawson, author of Dammed Indians Revisited: The Continuing History of the Pick-Sloan Plan and the Missouri River Sioux

As the first Lakota to serve in the United States Congress, Benjamin (“Ben”) Reifel (1906–1990) made a career of straddling two distinct cultures.

A bilingual member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, Reifel often found his ideas challenged by American Indian activists. He advocated for his people to become self-reliant citizens, not by abandoning traditional values, but through education and integration. In the end, Reifel viewed himself as a modern Indian leader, versed in his native tongue and culture, college educated, and looking beyond reservation boundaries.

Throughout his earlier career with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and in Congress during the 1960s, Reifel worked to bring economic success to the reservations and to South Dakota as a whole, dividing his time between agriculture policy and Indian affairs. A moderate-conservative Republican, he quickly rose to prominence on the House Appropriations Committee and, with Senator Karl E. Mundt, is responsible for the placement of the United States Geological Survey’s Earth Resources Observation Systems (eros) Data Center near the city of Sioux Falls.

In this premier biography of Reifel, Sean J. Flynn offers an alternative to depictions of American Indians as victims of eighteenth- and nineteenth century conquest. Contributing to a long-neglected topic in American Indian studies—the lives of twentieth-century American Indians—Flynn showcases the life of a man who prospered in the American mainstream without forsaking his racial identity.

Listen to the South Dakota Public Broadcasting interview with Sean J. Flynn by clicking here.

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