The end of colonialism saw the birth of a number of new polities. Some states were stillborn – despite national expectations – at a time when others came to life. I explore the phenomenon of claiming to be a state, rather than becoming a state, by looking at a place where the state claim stood apart from the state form – Nagaland, on the border between India and (then) Burma. The demand for a Naga nation-state moved outward from its regional context and assumed international dimensions. With few internal resources, Naga nationalists turned to their departing British colonizer, the international forum of the United Nations, the rhetorical anti-colonial nationalism of the US, and an assortment of international activist supporters. Claims-making became a form of state-making. Nationalists, and the activists who supported them, tried to fit their claims within the formula of what a state should be, at the moment when global decolonization was crafting that formula. This project chronicles the interplay between national claims of non-state actors and this larger state-making enterprise. These two processes intervene in academic debates about the relationship between the Cold War and decolonization, the origins of humanitarian politics, and the nature of sovereignty for new post-colonial nations. This research places the voices of non-officials, activists and nationalists alike, within state-centric international politics. It will highlight the role of individuals and peoples inside the formation of an international system during global decolonization.