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Mi’kmaq people had occupied the area for centuries before the arrival of the first Europeans in the late 15th century.Primarily hunters and gatherers, the Mi’kmaq ranged over the Maritime Provinces and into the Gaspé Peninsula and later spread to Newfoundland and New England.Most of the southern peninsula rests upon acidic granite, and a large part of Cape Breton Island is mountainous, forested terrain of acidic and metamorphic rock.Podzolic soil dominates, with some gray wooded soil mainly along the Northumberland Strait.Winters in the inland areas are generally colder, with the coldest temperatures occurring in the highlands, and summers are slightly warmer.
Irish migration, especially in the 19th century, greatly expanded the population of the Halifax region, among others.
German immigrants in the 1750s founded the seaport of Lunenburg.
Beginning in the 20th century, there were smaller migrations of Dutch, Italian, Polish, Arab, Chinese, South Asian, and other peoples, especially to the urban centres of Halifax and Sydney.
Approximately one-third of Nova Scotians are Roman Catholics; among the Protestant denominations, the United Church of Canada is the largest, followed by the Anglican and Baptist churches.
Urbanization was an important trend during the 20th century, but nearly one-half of Nova Scotians still live outside major population centres.