The Representation of Indigenous Populations through National Symbols

Most people assume that indigenous people are offended by the memorials erected of their indigenous groups. "When it comes to cultural protocols around images there are varying opinions. For some, photos are ways of honoring the deceased; for others they are forbidden" (Bronwyn). Regardless of what country, Australia, Brazil, or Canada, various indigenous memorials convey that indigenous people are being represented and honored, which is largely displayed through the use of symbols respective to their national identity. "The image history offered here tracks the interwoven claims about identity and sovereignty at work within that national vision" (Olson, 5). These national symbols represent an important aspect of the culture of the indigenous group, but they can also be misused, showing disrespect (“Indigenous Symbols”).

This video below shows several examples of national aboriginal symbols of the Saskatchewan.

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This Aboriginal Memorial is dedicated to the indigenous people of the Central Arnhem Land in Australia who have since 1788 died defending their land and were not given a proper burial. The memorial consists of 200 hollow log coffins, one for each year of European settlement.

Aboriginal Memorial 

The Aboriginals are people of the Central Arnhem Land and the logs in the display are inspired by a ceremony they perform called the Dupun Ceremony. The ceremony is meant to ensure the safe arrival of the spirit of the deceased on its voyage from the earth to the land of the dead. The memorial has 200 hollow log coffins that are placed around the course of the Glyde River, each log coffin representative of where the indigenous clans lived. The different paintings on the logs imitate significant designs to each clan; these symbols signified the paint on bark or on bodies that the indigenous populations used during ceremonies. All of these visually detailed cultural and geographical aspects put into the memorial of the indigenous population of this area shows that they are being commemorated respectfully. 

glyde river.jpg
Glyde River


This museum is meant to preserve and show the culture of the indigenous population of Brazil. The museum was also created to educate people about the Brazilian indigenous people and the challenges they went through, as well as correct any misunderstandings people may have of them.

The Museum of Indigenous People

Although this may just look like a museum to the average human eye, the architecture of this museum done by the Brazilian architecture, Oscar Niemeyer, has importance. The museum is spiral-shaped to resemble a maloca, which is a house used by the Yanomami tribe in Brazil. There is a circular courtyard outside in resemblance to where the indigenous groups would perform cultural activities such as, games, feasts, and rituals (International). There is also a curved canopy above the courtyard and the museum is covered with glass windows to show the sunlight that enriched the homes of the indigenous tribes. The inside of the museum, displaying thousands of photos, videos, films, documents, jewelry, clothes, musical instruments, masks, and paintings about and from the various tribes in Brazil is displayed around a circle. An example of one of the displays is a wall that has a numerous amount of weapons and tools that the indigenous groups used. The indigenous people of Brazil have held true to their culture even with the exposure of other traditions, customs, and languages.

Maloca of the Yanomami tribe
Museum Courtyard
Tools and Weapons of Indigenous Groups

A bronze sculpture with four warriors representing the thousands of men and women including Aboriginals and indigenous people that defended Canada for its freedom.







National Aboriginal Veterans Monument 

This monument resembles more than 7,000 Aboriginal Canadians and an unknown number of Inuit, Métis and other indigenous people of Canada who helped fight in the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War. The use of the number four is visually apparent in this memorial with the four warriors (two men and two women) facing the four cardinal directions, as well as the four animals used. The four animal figures, the elk for its sharp senses, the buffalo for its determination, the bear for its healing, and the wolf for its family values. Additionally, an eagle is located at the top, representing the Creator and the spirit of the Canadian indigenous people (Canada, Veterans Affairs). The four animal figures also symbolizes the importance of the indigenous people by honoring their faith using the natural world. The number four was used when creating this monument because of the number's importance to a great number of indigenous people. This is because the Aboriginals see everything in cycles of four, for example, four seasons (spring, summer, winter, and fall) or the four stages of life (infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood) (Number Concepts).


Bronwyn Carlson Senior Lecturer. “Indigenous Australia's Diverse Memorialisation of the Dead.” The Conversation, 29 Oct. 2020,

Olson, Christa J. Constitutive Visions: Indigeneity and Commonplaces of National Identity in Republican Ecuador. , 2014. Print.

“Indigenous Symbols.” Indigenous Symbols - Marketing and Communications - University of Saskatchewan,

International, Survival. “Yanomami.” Yanomami - Survival International,

Canada, Veterans Affairs. “National Aboriginal Veterans Monument.” National Inventory of Canadian Military Memorials (NICMM) - Memorials - Remembrance - Veterans Affairs Canada, 29 Oct. 2020,

Number Concepts, number four is unique,childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.