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This may have been one of the most controversial seasons of The Amazing Race Canada—Time penalties! Cab stealing! Smack-talking all around!—but in the end it was James Makokis and Anthony Johnson’s positive spirit and sheer determination that helped catapult them to a first-place finish on the mat Tuesday night.

We knew they were a fan-favourite team, but to see this Two-Spirit couple actually wrap this thing up with a first-place win? Well, that just brought a little tear to our eyes. Especially when they yelled our new life motto, “Ahkameyimok,” as they ran past the eliminated teams to greet host Jon Montgomery.

The duo beat out Olympians Sam and Sara and sisters Joanne and Lauren in the show’s final hour in Muskoka, Ont., securing two 2019 Chevrolet Blazers, a trip for two around the world and a $250,000 cash prize.

We caught up with the guys the morning after their big win, where they revealed dreams for their own show (and bigger dreams for a healing centre), their current fundraising campaign to help bolster Indigenous awareness across the country and how they kept things positive.

What did it feel like to cross that finish line?

James: It was overwhelming. There was a huge sense of relief that everything was over and we did it first.

Anthony: Crossing the finish line kind of happened in the car on the way to the finish line because we left Sarah and Sam at the Cranberry challenge and we knew we were in front. We had that feeling, knowing we were first.

James: The cool thing was that for that episode there was a helicopter that would follow us throughout the day and we were like, “If the helicopter is still with us that’s a good sign!”

Why do you think you had this season’s winning formula?

James: We did a ton of research to get on the show. We had spreadsheets.

Anthony: We really did. We binge-watched it before we came on. [Season 4’s] Ashley Callingbull-Burnham and Joel Ground were the reason that we were excited to join the show but we really took a lot of inspiration from [Season 2’s] Mickey Henry and Pete Schmalz.

How do you plan to use the newfound attention that’s on you?

Anthony: One of the things we did throughout the season was to host viewing parties in different parts of Alberta. We’d have anywhere from 150 to 500 people, and that was one way to engage with people and share the love of the show. They say The Amazing Race Canada brings people together, which it totally did it our case. And the other thing we did with that was to have a fundraiser, Restore Harmony. We uploaded a doc that we made yesterday at 3 a.m.—

James: That Anthony made!

Anthony: Raising awareness is about making sure that Indigenous stories are being told.

James: Education is a huge thing. Every step of the way on the race we took an opportunity to discuss something Indigenous-related. Whether that was acknowledging the territory that we were in, like in Kamloops we acknowledged the Secwepemc people, that we were there in Tk’emlúps, which is their traditional name for the place. And being really respectful and mindful of all the things we were experiencing. A lot of the times it wasn’t all fun and fuzzy but those are the stories that impacted people. And at the same time we had fun experiences where we were like planting trees and looking at that as medicine.

Anthony: And, you know moving forward, if Bell Media wants to work with us on developing a show…

James: Maybe we can do a renovation show with our winnings of our house or something.

Anthony: But the thing we learned the most is that it is fun and it brings people together around a positive, fun experience. With Indigenous issues that’s the way we move forward—together, through fun, building relationships and having good times.

Throughout the race you kept things positive. What was your trick to avoiding negativity?

James: It was really important to us to have a positive state of mind every day. One of the key ways we did that was by smudging, which is a practice that we use where we use medicine and burn sage, cedar, sweet grass, different things like that. And that’s how we started our days. We tried our best to be mindful.

Anthony: I’m really grateful for this experience because I found that The Amazing Race Canada ended up being a ceremonial teaching for me. It taught me about the forces of my body and being are able to interact with those around me to create spaces that enable them to succeed… and also to create spaces that make them not feel so good based on my attitude or tone or whatever. Being in the race showed me that if you’re positive and if you generate that energy and maintain it through various techniques, that good things will come.

Speaking of good things, are you planning to do anything special for Aarthy and Thinesh after they helped dig you out of that clam-digging challenge?

Anthony: We might pay for Aarthy to have some cooking lessons! They’re our friends for life. Thinesh just started school so they’re busy. Aarthy has been travelling. She’s writing a book, which is amazing.

James: Aarthy is so humble. She wrote a children’s book to inspire kids to be incredible scientists.

Anthony: To have visibility for women of colour in leadership roles, that’s amazing and she never really told us about it and we had to get it out of her one day.

James: But yeah I think we just need to take a beat and regroup for a few days and then make plans to hang out with them and figure out how to move forward.

How are you going to celebrate your winnings?

Anthony: We want to just take a break and think about the future and make a wise decision. Our ultimate dream is to build a healing centre somewhere in the mountains by Jasper where we can create a camp that brings people together from all walks of life to share and learn about the teachings that Turtle Island has to offer. Unfortunately $250,000 doesn’t go very far in the Jasper area, so if you can spread the word, get someone to donate some land…

James: A mountain view, a river…

Anthony: We’ll do like Love It Or List It: Jasper!

The Amazing Race has been renewed for an eighth season on CTV and is expected to air sometime next year.