Right Story, Wrong Story: Adventures in Indigenous Thinking

Tyson Yunkaporta

Right Story, Wrong Story: Adventures in Indigenous Thinking
Text Publishing
3 October 2023

Right Story, Wrong Story: Adventures in Indigenous Thinking

Tyson Yunkaporta

Sand Talk, Tyson Yunkaporta’s bestselling debut, cast an Indigenous lens on contemporary society. It was, said Melissa Lucashenko, ‘an extraordinary invitation into the world of the Dreaming’.

Right Story, Wrong Story extends Yunkaporta’s explorations of how we can learn from Indigenous thinking. Along the way, he talks to a range of people including liberal economists, memorisation experts, Frisian ecologists, and Elders who are wood carvers, mathematicians and storytellers.

Right Story, Wrong Story describes how our relationship with land is inseparable from how we relate to each other. This book is a sequence of thought experiments, which are, as Yunkaporta writes, ‘crowd-sourced narratives where everybody’s contribution to the story, no matter how contradictory, is honoured and included…the closest thing I can find in the world to the Aboriginal collective process of what we call “yarning”.’

And, as he argues, story is at the heart of everything. But what is right or wrong story? This exhilarating book is an attempt to answer that question. Right Story, Wrong Story is a formidably original essay about how we teach and learn, and how we can talk to each other to shape forms of collective thinking that are aligned with land and creation.


If you’re anything like me, you might struggle to get a grasp on Indigenous knowledge systems, and find it hard to fully understand how spiritual practice can coexist with scientific rationality. Thankfully, Tyson Yunkaporta isn’t looking to convince you of anything – he just wants to have a conversation with you. Right Story, Wrong Story is best described as just that, a conversation, albeit a little one-sided, between an author and a reader, both hoping to understand themselves and the world better.

The method of inquiry is Indigenous knowledge, and the subject matter is everything wrong with the world, from late-stage capitalism to environmental collapse, but to reduce Yunkaporta’s work to an Indigenous-themed repair manual for society would be to do it a grave disservice. Instead, what the book is really trying to do is to identify places where Wrong Story has taken hold and think of ways that Indigenous thinking might help it become Right Story. What are ‘Wrong Story’ and ‘Right Story’, you may ask? You’ll just have to read the book to find out.

Yunkaporta’s writing style is disarming in the best way possible, never speaking to the reader with anything except earnest camaraderie and effortlessly weaving between corny jokes, mythological allusion, and rigorous cultural theory. The book is loosely structured around various framing devices – yarns (‘conversations with the futile and passive-aggressive parts removed’), traditional objects, circles of hell – which guide the book from topic to topic, but it’s irrepressibly freewheeling and discursive from beginning to end. There are revelations buried deep within, whether they’re insights into the Indigenous perspective on Land and relationality or razor-sharp analyses of our current cultural hegemony, but those are just a bonus. Right Story, Wrong Story, at its core, is an invitation to sit, listen and share space in your head with another human being for a while. It’s compelling, it’s refreshing and it’s something I would recommend to anyone disillusioned with modernity and looking for a new perspective.

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