Spanish and American colonisers ascribed the identity ‘Igorot’ to the peoples of the northern Philippine mountains, positioning them in the ‘tribal slot’, somewhere between ordinary peasants and ‘backward’ primitives. From this marginal position, contemporary Igorot communities have been comparatively successful in formalising their entitlements to land and resources in their dealings with the Philippine State. This success depends on a discourse tying indigenous or ‘tribal’ culture to particular places. Colonial and, now, local anthropology has been recruited to this process through the mapping of community boundaries. This has allowed groups to secure official status as ‘cultural communities' and gain legal recognition of their ancestral domains. Ironically, even as ancestral domains are recognised, the municipalities that hold such domains have ceased to be bounded containers for Igorot localities, if they ever were. Participation in global indigenous networks, circular migration, and ongoing relations with emigrants overseas blur the spatial, temporal, and social boundaries of Igorot communities. Transnational flows of people, information, and value are recruited to support the essentialised versions of indigenous identity necessary for negotiations with the state. Here, I show how the specific history of the Igorot ‘tribal slot’ enables communities to perform essentialised indigeneity and simultaneously enact highly translocal modes of cultural reproduction.