Books

Cover of book: Right Story, Wrong Story

Tyson Yunkaporta
Right Story, Wrong Story

If you want to know where to find your contribution to the world, look at your wounds. When you learn how to heal them, teach others.”
– Emily Maroutian


Stepping into the betrayal and bitterness of his history, Tyson Yunkaporta’s Right Story, Wrong Story invites readers to board a traditionally crafted canoe to witness the Anthropocene – aka Dante’s “Inferno”. Buoyant with the jovial, disarming charm and bawdy humour of his bestselling debut, Sand Talk, this work delves into an undercurrent of despair, distress and cynical rage in an attempt to reverse the brainwashing that is killing the world. The key to sanity and salvation is the knowledge that “Aboriginal culture is the best way to live that has ever existed on this earth”. 

Founder of the Indigenous Knowledges Systems Lab at Deakin University, Dr Yunkaporta promises to “science the shit out of this messed-up world right now”. Calling on fascinating analysis and data accumulated from his think tank labs and “collective sense-making” relationships, Yunkaporta shares riveting conversations and wisdom from a wide range of remarkable Elders, scientists and philosophers. 

There are right stories and wrong stories. Wrong story can initially feel like a superpower and thrive. Unfortunately, unilateral innovation that initially seems helpful does not stand the test of time and is ultimately destructive. Right story is always relational. Following the universal principles of Indigenous knowledge, protocols and processes, and relational obligations to place, ancestors and descendants ensure that innovation works over deep time.

Deep time diligence is narrative-driven. Looking at the world through a relational lens that is practical and useful, Yunkaporta uses examples of Indigenous evaluation to show “true narratives are created over time and from aggregated viewpoints, including ignorant ones”. Framing his investigation of colonies, he ponders a study of an ant. How can we truly know anything about one ant without learning about the entire colony, and the “systems of seasons, waterways, species and symbiotic relations in which that colony sits”?

Like Sand Talk, each chapter of Right Story, Wrong Story is researched and understood through patterns of Lore (story) that Yunkaporta carves into weapons. The procedure embeds learning and enhances his relationship with Country, the materials he uses and the Lore. In a world dominated by individualism, the carvings are battle scars of the self-initiated and the weapons hold the blueprint of living knowledge. We are reminded the process of healing hurts.

Text Publishing, 288pp, $35 

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on November 18, 2023 as "Right Story, Wrong Story".

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