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This paper considers the resistance potential of a locally authored "old customs" literature from North Sumatra as a body of texts that wrote back to the power of states in both colonial and postcolonial Indonesian contexts. Starting by the 1910s, Angkola Batak school textbook authors and amateur antiquarians captured part of the Dutch colonial folkloristic enterprise for their own political and aesthetic purposes. Attention to two sample translated texts by colonial-era Angkola Batak allows access to these authors' concrete rhetorical strategies for writing Angkola identity in robust terms. A third text from Angkola antiquarian literature from the Indonesian national era echoes the colonial political situation and illustrates a third writing strategy for contesting central state control.