In the growing field of refugee studies, there is an increasing shift toward more theoretical depth, more cultural and historical knowledge, and more explicit linkages between theoretical understandings and applied issues, In this article I will explore indigenous refugees from Guatemala, with a concerted effort to demonstrate the importance of theory, history, and sensitive ethnography to understanding their experiences as displaced groups in three distinct locations on the physical and social landscape. I will argue that refugee groups come to perceive themselves as social groups with collective identities that are creations mediated by their prior history and their current situation. Anchored in their prior concepts of ethnic identity, refugees apply creatively these social identity rules to their radically altered circumstances as refugees. Their success at establishing a coherent (and socially recognized) new collective identity, in turn, has implications for the well-being of individuals and the successful delivery of social services to them.