Tyson Yunkaporta: Poetry (Done Right) Reveals The Indigenous Worldview

“I don’t know why Stephen Hawking and others have worried about super intelligent beings from other planets coming here and using their advanced knowledge to do to the world what industrialized civilization has already done. Beings of higher intelligence are already here, always have been. They just haven’t used their intelligence to destroy anything yet. Maybe they will, if they tire of the incompetence of domesticated humans…

“The war between good and evil is in reality an imposition of stupidity and simplicity over wisdom and complexity.”

– Tyson Yunkaporta, Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Could Save The World

Tyson Yunkaporta opened his Cornell University presentation to students in fall 2022 with his baptism-by-fire story of arriving at a corporate conference on his first trip to America, discovering the only meal offerings were vegan, and deciding to ask the land around the conference center for meat to go with the meal. A deer was provided by the land, and in the interview below, you can hear Tyson describe skinning and preparing the animal in the conference center’s kitchen while watching the “rainbows” enclosing the organs, the spirit of the animal, leave during the preparation. I couldn’t see the faces of the students in the Cornell classroom through the Zoom lens from my seat in my Virginia home office, but if their jaws were slack like mine, they were also in awe.

In his book, Sand Talk, Tyson shares the story of connecting with the land to provide meat for the vegan retreat, along with other fascinating stories of his research into Indigenous Wisdom and Worldview. His cross-cultural, worldview-bridging insights, in his books and in his live presentations, may spark brush fires in your psyche or ignite a worldview-ending conflagration. Either way, you are sure to never be the same once you begin to understand where he is coming from: it is where we all need to go if we’re going to survive as a species, he believes.

At Kindred, we have been utilizing the worldview work of Native American and meta-cognition (worldview) scholar Four Arrows to understand our current Dominant Worldview and how it differs from a Kinship/Indigenous Worldview. While Tyson’s academic research resides firmly inside the Indigenous Worldview, he specilaizes in TEK, traditional ecological knowledge. As Four Arrows shares with us on Kindred, “Worldview differs from traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) that is localized knowledge Indigenous/First Nation Peoples develops from deep experience in a particular landscape. So, there are two kinds of Indigenous knowhow missing in the dominant culture that are apparent around the world in First Nation Peoples: the Kinship worldview and TEK.” You can learn more about worldview using the Kindred Worldview Chart by Four Arrows (see the bottom of this page), read the introduction to Restoring the Kinship Worldview, and watch Darcia Narvaez and Four Arrows move us through worldview literacy here.

About Tyson. Tyson Kunkaporta is a senior lecturer on Indigenous knowledges, a wood carver, and a poet at Deakin University’s Geelong Waurn Pods Campus. He is a senior research fellow at the Deakin’s Indigenous Knowledges Systems Lab, a space where Indigenous practitioners can apply their thinking and systems to different contexts around the world. He is from the Apalech clan of Australia’s west cape. He has worked with Aboriginal languages, and his research includes a focus on oral histories of nature disasters. He prefers to minimize his own narrative, rather than “build a brand.” His book, Sand Talk, won the Small Publishers Adult Book of the Year Award. He is one of the contributors to the book, Restoring the Kinship Worldview, by Four Arrows and Darcia Narvaez.

About the Interview. In this interview, Tyson shares that, “Poetry, done right, is not about naming ‘the thing’ but about pointing to the thing without naming it. This is where Indigenous Worldview lives, in not naming or studying the thing, but the relationships and connections between the things. I don’t want people to study Indigenous culture by looking at it – buying your rattle or whatever. I want people to see the world from inside Indigenous culture, to look out from this space, not into it.” I hope you will enjoy my broad-ranging discussion with Tyson as much as I did. Never mind the brush fires, they are just clearing the way for new growth.


Listen to the Podcast Interview with Tyson Yunkaporta


Kindred’s Indigenous/Kinship Worldview and Wisdom Learning Resources

Learn more about how our Worldviews create our world on Kindred.

Discover the book that explores each of the precepts in the Worldview Chart below: Restoring the Kinship Worldview, by Four Arrows and Darcia Narvaez

Learn more about Indigenous and Kinship Worldview and Wisdom on Kindred

Download a free version of the worldview chart below, including B&W versions, or buy a poster, in Kindred’s New Story Glossary.

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