In the 1970s, an era of actual and threatened energy shortages, Canada and indeed all of North America, were paying increased attention to the fabulous oil sands of northeastern Alberta. Although rich in their promise for the future, the sands were no new discovery -- fur traders and explorers commented on them for over two hundred years. And for more than half a century, scientists and engineers wrestled with the problems of separating the oil from the sand and delivering it to market at a competitive price. But these rich resources do not exist in vacuo; the exploitation of the oil sands has had enormous consequences, not always foreseen, on the region and its people. The purpose of this publication was not to be a manual on the petrochemical industry, but to describe briefly, and in non-technical terms, the oil sand area and its people, and to tell something of their rich historical and other background.