This article explores the dynamics of natural resource conflicts and local government in the Peruvian Andes. Recent publications have found that efficiency and democratic accountability in local government are key variables for mitigating conflict. By focusing on the ethnographies of two conflicts and as participant observers within local government, we argue that by re‐framing the analytical focus within local histories and current practices of natural resource conflicts, we can better make sense of the dynamics of current land politics. The article presents a sequential framework that explores key moments of the relations between the state and peasant communities during natural resource conflicts. Through this framework, we argue that natural resource conflicts are negotiated in a sphere of politics that transcends the state's institutional and legal limits.