Image credit: CTV. This Indigenous couple that works in Kehewin is one of the teams on Season 7 of CTV’s The Amazing Race.
Anthony Johnson and James Makokis who work in Kehewin are tackling Canada’s biggest summer stage on television.
Anthony and James are through three episodes of CTV’s The Amazing Race Canada.
Although they are both born adventurers who love to hunt, ice fish, quad, and hike – the gay Indigenous couple is on a much bigger stage than their typical day jobs.
Johnson works as the project coordinator for Kehewin Health Services while Makokis is a family doctor.
“We had thought about applying we just didn’t seriously investigate it, we didn’t know casting was currently underway. And so when we got that encouragement, it was kind of like a fire under our butts to get our videos together,” said Johnson.
After a fax came in to tell the couple that casting for Amazing Race Canada was underway, the couple went on their Christmas vacation to Costa Rica to shoot their application videos.
Then one thing led to another, said Makokis, and the couple was chosen for Season 7.
If the couple wins the race, they’ll take home $250,000, a paid trip around the world, and a new 2019 Chevrolet Blazer RS.
Right now, they sit third in the race.
While Makokis was born and raised in Saddle lake Cree Nation, Johnson is originally from Navajo Nation in Arizona and moved to Alberta to meet James.
The gay couple is highlighting their unique nature through the show.
“I think that was one of the reasons that we wanted to go into this show is to showcase diversity in our nation’s in our community, that there are couples from all walks of life, that we as Indigenous people have always recognized and respected gender diversity, sexual diversity within our nation, and that we wanted to bring attention to those issues, especially around homophobia and transphobia. That there’s no place for that – in our societies and in society in general,” said Makokis.
Johnson added: “Everything that we do is more about what we want to do and the kind of experience you want to have in life. And don’t let anything like that be a barrier to being fully expressed and fully alive on this earth. And if people have a problem with that, that’s their problem.”
The team had to fib to their coworkers about why they were leaving for such a long time to shoot episodes of the show.
They made up an excuse that they were going to Anthony’s home in Navajo to help his father and there would be no cell reception.
In reality, they were preparing to travel from sea to shining sea across Canada and would’ve got away with it too, if it wasn’t for reporters from the Revelstoke Review newspaper who snapped a couple shots of the contestants during that leg of the race.
Word spread fast back home.
“That kind of exploded all over Facebook and social media while we were still on the show. And my poor parents and family who were sworn to secrecy about where we were gone had people coming up to them being like, ‘congratulations, we’re so excited the boys are on the show.’
“And they have to be like, ‘What are you talking about? They’re in Arizona,’” said Makokis.
They are called Team Ahkameyimok in the show, a Plains Cree word of encouragement meaning to keep going, don’t give up, and persevere, is the couple’s mantra during the race.
As health care workers keenly interested in cultural revitalization, Anthony and James are currently fundraising during the show’s run to raise money for a Cultural Healing Centre in Kehewin.
They hope the exposure of the show will get help from across the country with their various t-shirts, buttons and stickers.
“Our biggest hope is that we can exceed our $250,000 goal for our fundraising efforts so that we can extend these efforts into the community and beyond,” said Johnson.
“And I think that the Cultural Healing Centre is a way for the Lakeland community to participate with the First Nation whose land they’ve settled upon, and whose treaties allow them to do that in the spirit of reconciliation.”
One of their hopes of being on the show is for people to look at their neighbour in a new light.
“Hopefully they look at their neighbor different. Maybe they have a neighbor, have a friend, someone in their life that maybe they didn’t quite understand. Maybe our experience on the show will give them that courage or that opportunity to take a step and say hey, ‘Who are you?’ How do I know you have been seeing you in one light, but I know that many people have many lights that shine?” said Johnson.
With three episodes in the books already, Anthony and James are still in the race.
Soon, the team will know if Elite Theatre in St. Paul will host a viewing party of the show for people to attend and watch alongside their friends.
“There’s definitely more than 11,000 people in the area. And we hope they’ll all be part of Team Ahkameyimok,” said Makokis.
The show airs each Tuesday on CTV.