Tyson Yunkaporta (Part 1) – Indigenous Knowledge & the Web of Life: Living & Learning in Times of Crisis, Recognizing our Relatedness, Healing Grief & Mental Illness, Sharing Healing Stories & Sustaining Hope

Tyson Yunkaporta Indigenous Knowledge Web of Life

“What if I lean into the pain and come out the other side and survive it—and what if I take you with me, as the reader, and together we deal with our pain?” asks Tyson Yunkaporta, author, senior research fellow, founder of the Indigenous Knowledge Systems Lab. Tyson embodies this era of metacrisis, actively working with the global issues of our time in his work and in his personal life. His books are paradigm rattling and his whole life is a contribution—bringing forth ways in which Aboriginal Indigenous knowledge can help us, stating the need to find a collective narrative we can all agree on in order to survive, expressing himself with utter authenticity, and pointing out emphatically that each one of us is a web of relations, and that’s what matters most.

In his own uniquely raw, unguarded, authentic (and funny) way, Tyson describes his personal challenges with mental health and bipolar disorder and the states of mind he was in when he wrote his two books. Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World, was written in just weeks while manic. In dramatic contrast, Right Story, Wrong Story: Adventures in Indigenous Thinking was written while wrestling with depression. Tyson talks about disinformation and how we collectively need to get to the “right story;” about Aboriginal culture and what it means to be living in a colony; the amazing psycho-technologies Aboriginals have to deal with grief; the radicalization and polarization exacerbated by COVID lockdowns in Australia; the similarity between Indigenous knowledge and the scientific method; the sacredness of magic and how this cannot be scaled. Tyson is a window into Aboriginal Indigenous knowledge and a brilliant translator of that wisdom for the rest of us. Recorded September 21, 2023.

“If you can get a fellow like me to line up and share a narrative with everybody else and an agreement on what is real and what is not in the world, then I guess there’s going to be hope for everybody.”

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Topics & Time Stamps – Part 1

  • Introducing artist, academic, author, podcast host, and founder of the Indigenous Knowledge Systems Lab, Tyson Yunkaporta (01:21)
  • Aboriginal & white Australia is really just one world, with Australia squatting on top: living in the overlap space of the Venn diagram (02:50)
  • How we survive: Aboriginal culture has amazing psychotechnologies of mourning and excels at cultivating humor to effectively heal the grief from facing death so often (05:45) 
  • How the Aboriginals were indirectly responsible for the first corporation after spearing Dutchmen 500 years ago (06:57)
  • Tyson’s new book, Right Story, Wrong Story spends a lot of time refuting his first book, Sand Talk (09:20)
  • Sand Talk was written in a bipolar/manic episode in 2 weeks flat—it includes a lot of solid Indigenous wisdom as well as propaganda about Western institutions (09:51)
  • Right Story/Wrong Story was written in a state of suicidal depression modeled on Dante’s Inferno (13:14)
  • The effects of COVID and the harshest lockdowns on the planet on Aboriginal Australia & on Tyson (14:11)
  • Right Story/Wrong Story looks at disinformation: how can we collectively get to the right story? (16:10)
  • Tyson explains his mental health challenges and the paradox of being dependent on Western medicine and other Western institutions (17:55)
  • The capacity to laugh is what gets you through (22:16)
  • The neurological capacity of an echidna (22:58)
  • How secular gurus, influencers, are nudging people in horrible directions like fascism, autocracy, exclusionary politics (24:31) 
  • People get very depressed reading Sand Talk to where Tyson has to talk them off the ledge, similar to the effects of Post-Avatar Depression Syndrome (26:43)
  • Tyson is a prototypical person, embodying the challenges of this metacrisis era: what if we all lean into the pain together? (28:45) 
  • Where did the mania go during the 2 years of COVID lockdowns? And the descent into hell with Virgil (30:45)
  • Sacred altered states are supposed to happen in ceremony only; mental illness is seen as something that impairs your hearing in Aboriginal society (32:20)
  • Magic is not meant to scale; it’s supposed to be part of your custodial role in caring for the landscape (34:25) 
  • Our hunger for Indigenous wisdom, for ancient wisdom, for nature’s wisdom (36:03)

Resources & References – Part 1

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Tyson Yunkaporta Indigenous Knowledge Web of Life

Tyson Yunkaporta is an Aboriginal scholar, founder of the Indigenous Knowledge Systems Lab at Deakin University in Melbourne, and author of Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World, and more recently, Right Story, Wrong Story: Adventures in Indigenous Thinking. His work focuses on applying Indigenous methods of inquiry to resolve complex issues and explore global crises. He is also an educator, traditional wood carver, arts critic, researcher, podcast host, and poet.


Podcast produced by Vanessa Santos and Show Notes by Heidi Mitchell


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