Based on findings from an ethnographic study, this paper explores the sociopolitical context of nurses' encounters with First Nations women in a Western Canadian hospital. Data were collected using in-depth interviews and participant observation of clinical encounters involving nurses and First Nations women who were in-patients in the hospital. Four themes in the data are discussed: relating across presumed "cultural differences"; constructing the Other; assumptions influencing clinical practice; and responding to routine patient requests. The findings illustrate how discourses and assumptions about Aboriginal people, culture, and presumed differences can become interwoven into routine clinical encounters. These results highlight the importance of analyzing health-care encounters in light of the wider sociopolitical and historical forces that give rise to racialization, culturalism and Othering, and underscore the need for critical awareness of these issues among nurses and other heath-care providers.