It was supposed to be a Cree and Mohawk mothers’ conference in Kahnawake that had been designed as a special cultural exchange between moms from Wemindji and Kahnawake. But, it didn’t exactly work out that way.

Affectionately named the “Creeference” by the Young Mothers’ Association of Wemindji, the local Wellness Centre and the Cree Nation of Wemindji sponsored the women and their entourage to head south to Montreal for the event. In preparation for the event, the participants also fundraised to help contribute to the $35,000 that the trip cost.

In total, 28 young mothers, their children and babysitters travelled from the Cree community by bus to Montreal for four days of workshops, yoga courses, sightseeing tours, shopping and a cultural exchange. But things didn’t happen as planned.

Due to a series of miscommunications with the Mohawk community, the Cree mothers met and held a workshop at Kahnawake’s Step By Step Child and Family Centre, but no Mohawk mothers participated in the event.

According to Alana Atwin at Step By Step, Mohawk women would have participated, but were unavailable since they had been informed too late at a time when the community is extremely busy. Plus, the conference-room facility at the centre can only accommodate about 30 people, leaving no room for the local women.

Nonetheless, according to Michelle Achinski, a University of Waterloo student who is working with the Wemindji mothers, the trip from April 14-18 went extremely well.

“There were two goals for this event; one was to reward the progress that these mothers have achieved so far. The other goal was to spearhead further progress and any future goals, including education,” said Achinski.

While the group was supposed to attend three workshops – one on empowerment, one on parenting and another on managing money – the women only made it to the empowerment workshop.

According to workshop leader Eleanor Cowan, it went off spectacularly well.

“They really enjoyed it. What they did was interview each other and then they reported to each other. They were laughing so much because they were having fun introducing each other to the group and that was very nice,” said Cowan.

Though the mothers’ group didn’t make it to the scheduled yoga classes either, Achinski said that being in a different environment was really important and essential to the learning that went on at the workshop.

“The atmosphere really helped because they were able to take their kids with them and they could always turn around and see their kids playing in the playground. And, this was in a territory that they had never been too before. Kahnawake was really beautiful,” said Achinski.

The moms and their entourage got a taste of Kahnawake as they concluded their day at the local Water Drum Restaurant, something Achinski said everyone enjoyed.

The mothers also were able to take a guided tour of McGill University for those interested in higher learning, take in a series of tourist attractions and, of course, shop until they dropped.

While the group’s schedule fell by the wayside from time to time, according to both Achinski and Cowan, the mothers had a truly fabulous time.