Silencing of Voice: An Act of Structural Violence. Urban Aboriginal Women Speak Out About Their Experiences with Health Care

// // Posted in Vol 4 Issue 1

Donna L. M. Kurtz, RN, BSN, MN, Métis Nation, Doctoral Student, Deakin University &

Associate Professor, School of Nursing, University of British Columbia Okanagan

Jessie C. Nyberg, RN, BSc, MHA(c), Secwepmc (Shuswap) Nation—Canoe Creek Band,

Aboriginal Infant & Early Childhood Development Program, Vernon First Nation

Friendship Centre

Susan Van Den Tillaart, RN, MNS, Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, University of

British Columbia Okanagan

Buffy Mills, BA, Sylix Nation—Okanagan Indian Band, MA Candidate, Interdisciplinary

Graduate Studies Program, University of British Columbia Okanagan

The Okanagan Urban Aboriginal Health Research Collective (OUAHRC)


This article reports some of the preliminary findings of an ongoing participatory research

study exploring the provision of health and social services for urban Aboriginal communities

in the Okanagan Valley. In particular, the article examines how colonial structures and

systems have worked to silence Aboriginal women’s voices and how this has affected the

ways in which urban Aboriginal women seek out health services. The article addresses these

issues through the voices of the Aboriginal women in the study. The women’s stories reveal

the many assumptions and inequities that contribute to their marginalization. They describe

how their voices are often silenced when they access health services and how this can cause

them to either delay seeking needed health advice or accept the status quo. The women’s

stories are used to stress the importance and power of voice. This is most evident in their

experiences accessing the health services offered through community-based Friendship

Centres, where many felt they had more control over the care they received. In the context

of this article, the impacts of colonization and the silencing of women’s voices are viewed as

acts of structural violence. The women’s stories provide crucial insights into how health care

provision can be changed to help prevent these acts of violence, thus leading the way to

improved health for all urban Aboriginal populations.

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