Archeological evidence indicates that the first inhabitants of Nova Scotia were Indians who moved northward as the icefields of the last Ice Age melted more than 10,000 years ago. They were probably a hunting people. Whether Nova Scotia was continuously inhabited from that time is not known.

Some archeologists believe that the Viking settlement of Vinland around 1000 A.D. may have been on Cape Breton Island. The occupants of the region when the first of the 15th- and 16th-century explorers arrived were Indians of the Algonquian language family. The Micmacs, a tribe of nomadic hunting and fishing people, were the dominant group. They later allied themselves with the French colonists.