Lake Superior was settled by Native Americans about 8000 BC when the Wisconsin Glaciers began to retreat. By 500 BC the Laurel people had established settlements in the area and had begun to trade metal with other native peoples. The Laurel people were animists and probably created many of the pictographs present on rock faces along the North Shore and other Canadian rock faces in order to communicate with spirits.
In the 12th century, on the easternmost portion of the North Shore, the ancestors of the Ojibwa migrated into the area. These people left behind small pits dug in the ground which archaeologists now call Pukaskwa Pits. On the Minnesotan portion of the North Shore, there are only three archaeological sites, so it cannot be determined who lived there at the time.
By the 18th century the Ojibwa had settled the length of the North Shore approximately as far as the modern Canadian-Minnesotan Border. The Minnesota portion of the North Shore was settled mostly by the Cree and the Dakota lived to the south.