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The Battle of the Belly River Virtual Reality project

Research Theme
Business and Technology
Lead Researcher
Kris Hodgson-Bright
Duration of Project
Lethbridge College CARIF, Alberta Cultural Heritage Grant in collaboration with the City of Lethbridge, the Galt Museum and the Lethbridge Historical Society
Project Description

The Battle of the Belly River applied research project is the last known major intertribal battle. The battle was between the Blackfoot and Cree and it was fought 153 years ago in the Lethbridge river valley on Oct. 25, 1870. This project is analyzing how a story is delivered having as much to do with understanding what the story is actually about. This is also known as medium theory. Famous media theorist, philosopher and former Edmontonian, Marshall McLuhan coined the term “the medium is the message.” For example, a text message will be understood differently than a television story.

Lethbridge College is working with the City of Lethbridge, Lethbridge Historical Society and the Galt Museum on this project as all groups value the importance of hearing from Blackfoot people about what transpired in this battle. Through this project there have been traditional video recordings, audio recording as well as photogrammetry which was used to capture artifacts from the battle and recreate them digitally. In addition to the digital artifacts, there were 3D printed versions of these artifacts that were created so participants could have a greater understanding of what transpired so many years ago.

A Virtual Reality version of the Battle of the Belly River is being created that is hoped to be part of an interactive exhibit at the Galt Museum in the fall of 2023. Drone footage has been captured of spiritually significant locations of the Blackfoot people and a narration of the story will also be created for the opportunity for an audio walking tour on the land where the battle was fought. The year-long research project began by forming a team of graduates from the VR/AR certificate program.

On Oct. 25, 2022 Lethbridge College students from Marcia Blackwater’s Indigenous Career Pathways class participated in the oral storytelling of the Battle River led by Elders Mike Bruised Head and Peter Weasel Moccasin. At the end of March 2023, those same students will provide feedback on an early version of the Virtual Reality experience of the Battle of the Belly River through a single focus group. This feedback will help to guide and refine the story in this format for sharing with the public later this year. A second set of focus groups at the end of May with other interested stakeholders from the City of Lethbridge, Lethbridge College, the Galt Museum and the Lethbridge Historical Society will get a chance to provide more feedback again to ensure the story in Virtual Reality is told in a respectful way.