In this article we look at rights discourses and law as an arena of struggle in which local people attempt to gain and secure access to localities of value. Following administrative decentralisation in 1999, throughout Indonesia, individuals and communities lodged land claims. To support these claims, multiple sources of legitimation were used. Among others: customary rights; a history of using the land; or official land law. We focus on the interaction between these groups and the government officials whose authority is required to grant access. We look at conflicts, as well as alliances, in nine different settings and discern three basic constellations through which legitimation is sought: (1) national state institutions; (2) regional autonomy opportunities; and (3) extra-legal arrangements. We find that the lowest levels of government offer the best chances of success but that security increases with higher levels of ratification. We show that broad alliances present an efficient strategy to gain rights to land and that it is vital for local communities to include government bodies, or capture official law’s agency.