Indigenous, two-spirit couple from Alberta wins Amazing Race Canada

Anthony Johnson and James Makokis plan to continue fundraising for a cultural healing centre

Amazing Race Canada contestants Anthony Johnson, left, and James Makokis, Team Ahkameyimok, are photographed in Toronto, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Anthony Johnson and James Makokis hoped being the first Indigenous, two-spirit couple to compete on The Amazing Race Canada would give them a national platform to highlight issues close to their hearts.

Over weeks of intense challenges that saw them criss-cross the country, the pair donned outfits meant to call attention to specific topics: handmade red skirts and a bandana for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, blue shirts emblazoned with “Water Is Life” to show the cultural and ceremonial importance of water.

Now that they’ve been crowned the winners, the married couple — who identify as two-spirit, a term used by some Indigenous peoples to describe their gender, sexual and spiritual identity — said they want to use their fame to continue fundraising for a cultural healing centre in Alberta’s Kehewin Cree Nation.

But first, they want to celebrate their groundbreaking victory, get some sleep and maybe go on vacation, they said Tuesday in an interview just hours before the show’s finale was set to air.

“We want a week on the beach somewhere hot because we had no summer. We need a tan,” Makokis said with a laugh.

The show’s seventh season, which hit the airwaves in July but was filmed earlier this year, started in Toronto and ended in central Ontario’s Muskoka region. Each episode saw the teams face off in challenges, such as a mock press conference or a game of sledge hockey.

Makokis, a family physician originally from the Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta, and Johnson, a project consultant born in Arizona’s Navajo Nation, said it was important for them to use the spotlight to raise awareness.

“Representing missing and murdered Indigenous women was important because it happens, it happens and people don’t talk about it,” Johnson said.

Many Indigenous communities were matriarchal before colonization and the couple felt it was important to show support for the women leaders in their community, Makokis added.

They also wanted to show two-spirit and transgender youth “that it’s OK to be different,” he said.

“If there’s two guys wearing a dress, they want to express their identity differently than the norm, then why does that matter? How is it hurting somebody else?” Makokis said.

“Because I have a large transgender population in my medical practice and I see the results of social isolation, it sends a strong message when their doctor is saying that…and we wanted to do that, we thought it was really important.”

Some moments were particularly emotional for the pair, including a challenge that Makokis said stirred up intergenerational trauma and led him to tears.

While Makokis did not go to a residential school, many others in his family did, including his father, who was the first to later attend an integrated school with French-speaking children, he said. Every day, his father faced slurs and violence, and Makokis said a challenge in which he was forced to speak French brought up those family memories.

ALSO READ: New commemorative loonie recognizing gay ‘equality’ sparks concern

RELATED: All Canadians have a role to play in ending MMIW ‘genocide,’ report says

Other moments stood out for more pleasant reasons. While racing to get on a plane in Kamloops, the two — who were wearing their red skirts — made eye contact with an Indigenous baggage handler, who broke into a huge smile, Johnson recalled.

The win comes with a $250,000 prize, a trip for two around the world, and two new vehicles.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bashaw filmmakers produce striking short film

Documentary showcases how a unique ecosystem is surviving

Summer Villages halt Stettler County’s Buffalo Lake amendment request

White Sands and Rochon Sands oppose density increase at Buffalo Lake RV Resort

Central Alberta’s Gord Bamford adds Bashaw and Hanna dates to the #REDNEK Music Fest

The tour features Jess Moskaluke and other special guests

The Stettler Board of Trade welcomes 2020 board of directors

The board is an organization comprised of business owners and municipal representation

On Feb. 26th, practice kindness and wear pink to symbolize that you do not tolerate bullying

Bullying is a major problem in our schools, workplaces, homes, and online

Blair says RCMP have met Wet’suwet’en conditions, so barricades should come down

The Wet’suwet’en’s hereditary chiefs oppose the Coastal GasLink project

Federal minister pledges to meet Wet’suwet’en chiefs in B.C. over natural gas pipeline

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say they are visiting Mohawk territory

Pipeline dispute: Tories put no-confidence motion on House of Commons agenda

Conservatives say they have no confidence in the Trudeau government to end the rail blockades

Blockade on CN rail line in Edmonton removed, injunction granted

The blockade consisted of wooden pallets on the tracks and signs that say ‘No Consent’

Canadians aboard coronavirus-ridden cruise ship to return home tonight

Among the infected are 47 Canadians who will have to remain in Japan for treatment

Carbon risk for Alberta’s public pension manager questioned

AIMCo says nearly $115 billion invested in carbon-intensive industries is on par with other funds

Worker, shocked at future Amazon warehouse in Nisku, has died: family

Colton Quast, 25, was taken to hospital and put in a medically induced coma

Blockade supporting Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs on rail line in Edmonton

‘Cuzzins for Wet’suwet’en’ post pics of wooden crates on line, signs saying ‘No Pipelines on Stolen Land’

Higher costs should kill Trans Mountain pipeline, federal opposition says

Most recent total was $12.6 billion, much higher than a previous $7.4-billion estimate

Most Read