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

  • Donna L. M. Kurtz Métis Nation, Doctoral Student, Deakin University & Associate Professor, School of Nursing, University of British Columbia Okanagan
  • Jessie C. Nyberg Secwepmc (Shuswap) Nation—Canoe Creek Band, Aboriginal Infant & Early Childhood Development Program, Vernon First Nation Friendship Centre
  • Susan Van Den Tillaart Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, University of British Columbia Okanagan
  • Buffy Mills
  • The Okanagan Urban Aboriginal Health Res (OUAHRC)
Keywords: Urban Aboriginal women, health care, silencing, racism, colonization, marginalization, discrimination, structural violence, participatory research, Okanagan Valley


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.

Author Biography

Buffy Mills

Okanagan Indian Band,
MA Candidate,
Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies Program,
University of British Columbia Okanagan