Beltrami County Historical Society Celebrates Bicentennial of Namesake’s Visit
The last weekend in June marked a special anniversary for Beltrami County. The Beltrami County Historical Society celebrated 200 years since the land’s namesake, Italian explorer and author Giacomo Beltrami, visited the area in search of the Mississippi River’s origin.
With the question of where the river began, Beltrami took a few-thousand-mile detour from New Orleans to what is now known as northwestern Minnesota and Beltrami County.
“His intent was to go directly down to Mexico. It was serendipity,” said Smithsonian Institution Staff Emeritus Dr. Cesare Marino. “He met William Clark of the famous ‘Lewis and Clark’ expedition, and he met [Fort Snelling officer] Lawrence Taliaferro. And they started talking about the American Indians saying, ‘why not? … Rather than going south, let me go north.'”
Beltrami did not manage this exploration on his own. During the bicentennial celebration, the help he received from Indigenous tribes and individuals was also highlighted.
“He loved and really intentionally made relationships with the Dakota and the Ojibwe that he met while he was here,” noted Beltrami County Historical Society Executive Director Emily Thabes.
“[He] nearly died on this trip. And the only reason that he lived was the hospitality of the Native Americans,” said ”True Source” Documentary Co-Producer Janet Rith-Najarian.
The bicentennial celebration was held at Buena Vista Ski Resort on Saturday, as it was very close to Lake Julia. This lake was named after Beltrami’s late love and what he believed to be the source of the Mississppi. The second day of the event was held at the Beltrami County History Center and featured more historians and speakers on the eccentric Italian.
During the second day of the program, Minnesota State Associate Supreme Court Justice Anne McKeig presented the Beltrami County Historical Society with a replica of the Dakota-made courting flute that Beltrami took back to Italy.
“His life was like a big mosaic,” said Dr. Marino. “We could only touch on … the central part of this mosaic. But there’s a beautiful [thing] also on the outlines of this biographical mosaic, which is the life of Giacomo Constantino Beltrami.”