Although Kachin resistance against the Burmese/Myanmar state has continued since the 1960s, in 1948 the Kachin were enthusiastic supporters of the Panglung Agreement and the Union of Burma. The article traces the development and treatment of the Kachin areas since British colonisation and shows how the foundations of the current situation were laid in the early decades of the twentieth century. British perceptions of the hill peoples as primitive, backward and in need of protection and guidance carried over into independent Burma and may account for many of the problems and misunderstandings experienced today. They may be compared to the “house elves” in the books about the wizard Harry Potter: lesser mortals destined to serve loyally, but not to be independent or determine their own fate. The Kachin continuously strive to counter this perception.