The human population of about 340 000 persons is 60% aboriginal, divided into Algonquian-speakers in most of the ecozone and Athapaskan-speakers in the western portion. The population is concentrated in a few permanent settlements, the location of which largely reflects the history of recent colonization.
Coastal settlements were established in the eastern Taiga Shield during the fur trade and whaling eras. The location of more recent communities, including Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, Uranium City in Saskatchewan, and Churchill Falls and Labrador City in Labrador, reflects the location of ore bodies or hydro-electric potential. Even the largest towns, such as Yellowknife (15 179 persons) and Labrador City (11 390 persons), are surrounded by wilderness. There are few all-weather roads, but they reach every community with at least 1 000 persons. In the Quebec portion of the ecozone, several thousand kilometres of roads for logging, mining, and other uses have been built in recent decades.
The economy combines a small number of industrial activities. Two of Canada's three largest hydro developments are found in the ecozone. The economic importance of mining to the economy of the Taiga Shield is significant. The largest mineral rush in Canadian history started in 1991 following the discovery of diamonds in the Slave Geological Province in the Northwest Territories. Uranium mining is conducted in northern Saskatchewan, gold is extracted near Yellowknife, and iron is mined in Quebec and Labrador. Despite urbanization, subsistence hunting, trapping, and fishing are still practised widely.