In the early 1970s, both the Canadian and United States federal governments introduced modern land claim agreements as a first step forward in the states’ recognition of Indigenous goals for self-determination. Since then, both the United States and Canadian federal governments have incrementally expanded their recognition of Indigenous rights to include Indigenous goals for political
self-determination. Yet, despite the fact that both countries began implementing broadly similar policies at approximately the same time, the degree to which Indigenous political and economic self-determination has been realized varies considerably both within and between the two countries. The variation in Indigenous self-governing power and authority suggests that the policy shift towards Indigenous self-determination is incomplete and has faced important barriers to implementation. This paper investigates two key aspects of this variation in Indigenous self-determination in the United States and Canada: (1) institutional histories embedded in geography, and (2) the temporal nature of policy frameworks. I argue that the full realization of Indigenous self-determination has been shaped in different ways and, ultimately, is limited by the intersection of embedded institutional legacies and federal political dynamics.