Thomassie Mangiok

Edu-play-tion: Thomassie Mangiok Makes Sharing Inuit Culture A Game

A believer in the power of education, cross-cultural sharing and fun, Thomassie Mangiok is an Inuk educator who makes learning an art form. He lives in Ivujivik in Nunavik where he works as a school administrator responsible for finance, maintenance, janitorial services, getting people to come in to teach traditional skills and arranging outings for staff and students. He works with elders and students on language and cultural projects and finds ways to preserve and express Inuit traditions. Outside of school, Mangiok is a graphic designer. He likes to create things that promote his language and culture, though juggling work, freelancing and family can be a challenge. 

Growing up, Mangiok loved math and programming and wanted to be a video game developer. Unfortunately, the program he wanted to attend was unavailable. He also loved drawing so went on to study graphic design in Montreal, a big challenge since he didn’t excel in French. He worked hard and graduated. After, he started a business with friends providing graphic design, web development and technical support. 

With few graphic designers in Nunavik, demand was high and he felt pressured to learn animation and video editing. At the same time, his kids were bombarded with content from other cultures and he wanted them to be exposed to Inuit content. He decided to contribute to that with his skills. 

Outside of work, he was part of his home community’s education committee. He later became a commissioner and executive member of the commissioners, then a school administrator, joining the school full-time.  

His advice to young Inuit students considering pursuing their education would be, “It is worth it. No one can take it away from you. You will learn and that knowledge, the skills you receive will be a part of you. Even if you decide to do something else, they'll be useful in the future.” He believes in investing in the future through education. 

Thinking of his own education, studying in Montreal as a young father was a challenge he had to overcome. Learning to be a father with few peers who were parents and not knowing where to find parenting help was tough. The culture shock of life in the South was also an adjustment, as was being away from home and his extended family. His immediate family brought him comfort. 

If he could give a message to his younger self it would be to get organized with his finances. Hiring an accountant and taking the finances seriously early on would have served him well. Learning to keep records of what was coming in and going out would have been useful for the sustainability of his business.

Illustration by Shaikara David

Now working full time, he works on his passion projects when he can. The board game and cartoon he’s working on have sat to the side to be picked up when he has time but a magazine he collaborated on with other Nunavik artists was something he could pull together more quickly and send out into the world.

He was inspired to create the boardgame unaware of any other board games created by an Inuk. “There was something I like about the tundra, the sense of being out and exploring, of not knowing what I'm going to see, who I'm going to see, what I'm going to experience. I love that,” he reflects. He incorporated that sense of adventure into the game, with a hexagon board and cards representing animals, people, mountains or plants to create an environment. Built into the game are anticipation, interaction, exploration and cooperation. 

“What I love doing is working with others and finding success and also seeing success somewhere else. You have to make sure the other player is not failing for you to win. This is something that I value from our region, from the Inuit culture is making sure others are doing well. If others are doing well, we share resources, and we end up doing well as well. The sense of exploration, the sense of sharing, making sure that others are succeeding. I wanted to share through Nunami, make other people experience them and make people from other cultures understand our background, what we value,” he reflects. The illustrations are a collaboration between him, his mother and his daughter and the instructions are in French, English and Inuktitut. The game is now all over the world. 

For inspiration, Mangiok looks to his surroundings and what other cultures have made. “I imagine that we can also do it, and then we can do it, but in our own way. A board game is popular from other cultures and produced elsewhere, and I thought we can do that, and make our own thing. It's a combination of the beautiful things we have in our culture, and also what other cultures are doing. I'm inspired by both,” he shares. 

In closing, to inspire Inuit youth, Mangiok says, “In the Arctic, we do need an economy in order to be able to do more, to be able to have more. We need more of us in it to begin to become active. I think the digital domain is a good one to focus on. More films, more TV shows, more games, stories, anything that can be exported outside of our region, without having to pay for expensive shipping fees.” 

"The world is interested in other cultures… If we start making our own things from our culture, we have a lot to share."

“The world is interested in other cultures… If we start making our own things from our culture, we have a lot to share. If TV shows and movies and books are plenty from the Western world, then there can be plenty from the Inuit world. There's so much to offer from us that could be used to have the money roll in our region so we do well financially,” he concludes. 

As someone who strongly believes in the power of education, sharing across cultures and learning through fun, Thomassie Mangiok is drawing a new future while pursuing his passions. Bringing the strength of Inuit culture to the table for a tabletop game, Mangiok is showing the world what his peoples’ cultural perspective can do. A father, husband, artist and educator, he works bit by bit to bring smile after smile in any way he can.

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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Key Parts

  • Career
  • Identity
  • Province/Territory
  • Date
    April 15, 2024
  • Post Secondary Institutions
    No PSI found.
  • Discussion Guide
    create to learn discuss

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