Many suspect that Fort Chipewyan's health problems have something to do with the fact that it sits less than 200 kilometres downriver from the biggest industrial project on Earth-the wringing of oil from Alberta's tar sands. It's an endeavour that threatens to devastate not only the people of Fort Chipewyan, but dozens of indigenous communities throughout northern Alberta-and perhaps Canada's entire Northwest. THE TAR SANDS DEPOSITS underlie 149,000 square kilometres of land in three regions: Athabasca, Peace River, and Cold Lake. That's an area larger than the state of Florida, and nearly one third of it, 54,000 square kilometres, has already been leased for development in Alberta. On top of or adjacent to those lands are more than two dozen First Nations, some already touched by tar sands extraction. Most are covered by Treaty Eight, which was signed in 1899, on the heels of a previous mining frenzy-the gold rush. Treaty Eight affirmed the Metis and First Nations' rights not only to reserve lands and monetary compensation, but also to the continued pursuit of traditional hunting, trapping, and fishing practices. These rights have been steadily eroded by the expansion of the tar sands development. In 1986, the Fort McKay Band Council formed the Fort McKay Group of Companies, which now pulls in millions of dollars of revenue each year from businesses that service oil companies with everything from heavy equipment to workers' camps. The band council is also in discussion with oil companies about extracting the 600 million barrels of bitumen that lie under their reserve. Fort McKay is rumoured to be the richest First Nation in Canada. "This community's success is completely dependent on oil sands development," says [Jim Boucher]. "That's the only option.