The Italian Almanac

sioux chief

Italian News - October 26

An unsung Italian explorer of the American West is to be celebrated in his native city of Bergamo. Costantino Beltrami, an adventurer who found the source of the Mississippi and roved the West when buffalo herds still covered the Great Plains, is the focus of an exhibition here that highlights his experiences among the Sioux.

An array of Native American objects demonstrates Beltrami's passionate interest in the rituals and social life of the Indians before their contact with the white man. His colourful descriptions of the Sioux and other Indians paint a vivid picture of life on the plains in the early 19th century. As well as his bent for anthropology, the show brings out Beltrami's activities as an amateur naturalist, displaying samples of previously unknown minerals and plants.

His journey through the Sioux lands in the summer of 1823 is retraced on a reproduction of a period map, while a miniature model of a tepee evokes the life that Beltrami shared. The fruit of research among previously unpublished documents and letters, the show celebrates Beltrami's achievement in locating the source of the great river in what was once the Sioux heartland.