Akwesasne is a Mohawk territory that is divided roughly in half by the Saint Lawrence Seaway. The Saint Lawrence Seaway also serves as the border between Canada and the United States, and Akwesasne balances its sovereignty between these two powers. The Mohawks are a part of the Haudenosaunee — People of the Longhouse — also known as the Iroquois Confederacy. The long-standing democratic government of the Haudenosaunee provided inspiration to the Founding Fathers of the future United States, and the liberated and decision-making women of the Haudenosaunee gave direction and encouragement to the early suffragettes.
Tom Kanatakeniate Cook first went to the Lakota Nation in South Dakota as a reporter for the Indian newspaper Akwesasne Notes, covering the 71-day uprising and siege at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Later Tom became a Plenty Board member and liaison of Plenty’s support to projects on Pine Ridge. As a photographer and witness, Plenty board member Stephen Gaskin accompanied Haudenosaunee representatives when they traveled on their own national passports to present grievances at the Non-governmental Organizations Conference on Indigenous Land Rights at United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland in September 1977. Plenty was called to Akwesasne to provide emergency medical support during a bitter confrontation with the state of New York in 1979. Plenty aided in the founding of the Akwesasne Emergency Medical Team in 1982 by training a Mohawk staff of State-certified EMTs and donating an ambulance for their use — the only emergency medical services for a native population of 6,000 Iroquois.