This article examines the emergence of indigenous movements in contemporary Latin America, focusing on the Andean countries. It is argued that we can understand the dynamics of these movements only if we see them in the historical context of the interaction between indigenous populations and the emerging Andean states in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The article reaches two important conclusions. First, this interaction was not purely antagonistic. Indigenous leaders used state legislation to achieve goals and often obtained support from state officials and sympathetic intellectuals (often called indigenistas). Second, it is clear that indigenous movements cannot automatically be considered progressive or emancipatory. They are just as often enacted in pursuit of backward-looking and even conservative objectives.