This article focuses on the internal operations of civil society organizations working among the indigenous population of Chiapas. The growth of non-governmental organizations in this area over the last few decades has reinforced the fabric of civil society. Yet at the same time, certain groups make uncivil use of civil society structures, preventing the effective representation of indigenous populations. Comparing three organizations of indigenous doctors, I examine the complex relations that arise between indigenous members and non-indigenous 'advisers'. In particular, I look to the ways that external advisers define indigenous interests and the concept of Indianness in pursuit of their own political agendas.