BACKGROUND: Indigenous social determinants of health, including the ongoing impacts of colonization, contribute to increased rates of chronic disease and a health equity gap for Indigenous people. We sought to examine the health care experiences of Indigenous people with type 2 diabetes to understand how such determinants are embodied and enacted during clinical encounters. METHODS: Sequential focus groups and interviews were conducted in 5 Indigenous communities. Focus groups occurred over 5 sessions at 4 sites; 3 participants were interviewed at a 5th site. Participants self-identified as Indigenous, were more than 18 years of age, lived with type 2 diabetes, had received care from the same physician for the previous 12 months and spoke English. We used a phenomenological thematic analysis framework to categorize diabetes experiences. RESULTS: Patient experiences clustered into 4 themes: the colonial legacy of health care; the perpetuation of inequalities; structural barriers to care; and the role of the health care relationship in mitigating harm. There was consistency across the diverse sites concerning the root causes of mistrust of health care systems.
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