Dr. James Makokis brings Cultural and Gender Diversity Awareness to Reality TV

The Amazing Race Canada season 7 is currently underway. It is an exciting reality series that will keep you on the edge of your seat as contestants travel all over Canada competing in challenges to avoid elimination. This season has been particularly engaging, as one of the contestants is Dr. James Makokis from Saddle Lake Cree Nation. James and his husband Anthony are the members of Team Ahkaweyimok. Ahkaweyimok is a Cree phrase that means to persevere.

makokisDr. Makokis is a physician, author and public speaker. He currently practises at the Kehewin First Nations health clinic, and also at a satellite clinic in Edmonton. His practise supports gender diverse patients from around the world. He is specifically concerned about the high statistics of suicide in this demographic, and is passionate about filling transgender healthcare gaps. He empathizes with two spirited youth as he experienced bullying as many gender diverse youth continue to experience today. He attributes his success and perseverance to the support of his family, and connection to cultural ceremony. Two spirited, in the Cree way of knowing means that an individual carries both female and male characteristics.
In Beyond the Social, James and his mother Dr. Patricia Makokis, summarize the importance of honoring Indigenous Worldview and holistic wellness. Highlighted are some of the challenges that Makokis has worked tirelessly to reduce, such as the absence of indigenous perspective in western medicine practises.
In June 2019, I heard Dr. Makokis and his husband speak at Ashmont Secondary School’s graduation ceremony. The speech was motivational and developed around the four components of Indigenous worldview; symbolized by the Medicine Wheel as emotional, physical, mental and spiritual well being. Highlights were having to study hard (until he had callouses on his butt), working in South America with the real Dr. Patch Adams, getting married at the 32 km mark of the Vancouver marathon, and staying connected to his indigenous heritage through participating in ceremony. His story is a remarkable story of resilience, and making the most of opportunities.
James and Anthony were approached by the producers of the Amazing Race as prospective participants. They worked on an entry and submitted it minutes before the deadline. They are competing in the nationally broadcasted program with the intention to raise awareness about indigenous and gender diversity issues. The couple designed outfits to be worn during each episode that honor important topics such as missing and murdered indigenous woman and girls.

If you have interest, the series is on CTV with a new episode airing every Tuesday. Additionally, full episodes of The Amazing Race Canada season 7 are available for free streaming here.

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