For more than 100 years, ethnographic accounts have highlighted the non-nativeness of the Komi diaspora to the Kola Peninsula, contrasting it with the indigenous Sami population. Their legal status there has been a vexed issue unresolved by Tsarist administrators, Soviet ethnic policies, present-day ideas of multiethnic civic nation, and global indigenous activism. In the everyday life, however, there are no apparent differences between the two ethnic groups and their traditional lifestyles in the rural area of Murmansk region. Juxtaposing historical ethnographic accounts on the Izhma Komi with my fieldwork experiences among the Komi on the Kola Peninsula, I show how ethnographers uphold dominant ideologies and promote different state policies. The ambiguous ethnic and indigenous categorizations from their accounts reverberate in popular stereotypes, political mobilizations from below, and state policies from above. In this way, they make an interesting case for the practical problems of generalization and essentialism.