This article aims to show the development of local identities and of local government political interests, as captured by clans and élite groups in Mentawai, West Sumatra, Indonesia. An ethnographic analysis was made of those islands in the Indian Ocean, which contain a high diversity of clan dialects/languages and new élite groups that have emerged as a result of young academic Mentawaians returning from the mainland. Influenced by a notion of indigenous political strength, a change in regional administration has set in motion political lobbying by young academics infused with new political ideas and economic interests. Regional autonomy raised the importance of local specific community demands of minority and indigenous governance, and the formation of local élite groups aligned with local interest groups, especially in remote regions of the Indonesian archipelago. The complications of a political landscape with numerous independent clans and recently created élite groups focused on their own narrow concern have compromised the negotiation capacity to advance the general interests of the communities in the Mentawai archipelago.