Vice-President (Indigenous)

  • Biography

    Dr. Catherine L. Cook, MD, MSc, CCFP, FCFP is Métis and grew up in northern Manitoba. She received her undergraduate and postgraduate medical education at UM (MD/87, MSc/03) and has been employed by the university since 1987. She is an associate professor in the department of community health sciences, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. She most recently served as head of Ongomiizwin – Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing and vice-dean, Indigenous health, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. She also was provincial lead, Indigenous health at Shared Health until taking on the role of Vice-President (Indigenous) full-time in April 2020.  

  • Dr. Catherine Cook

Learn more about Dr. Catherine Cook

Dr. Cook has focused on Indigenous health as a priority in her career. She practiced as a family physician in remote northern nursing stations for several years before focusing on public health practice, and more recently health administration and management. She has taken a leadership and operational role in the development and implementation of Indigenous health programs and services that focus on addressing the gaps and barriers to equitable access of quality health care for Indigenous people in Manitoba. At Shared Health, Dr. Cook co-chaired the development of an Indigenous partnership strategy framework and the development of a health-care system that recognizes and addresses the need for comprehensive quality health care for Indigenous people as close to home as possible. At the university, Dr. Cook took a leadership role in the creation of Ongomiizwin – the Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, officially approved by Senate in 2017.

Dr. Cook serves on several national boards and committees and has received many national and local awards, including the Dr. Thomas Dignan Award for Indigenous Health from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, the WXN Top 100 Women in Canada in 2017, the Health Administration Award from Doctors Manitoba, the May Cohen Award from the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada and the Cal Gutkin Ambassador Award from the Canadian College of Family Physicians.

Dr. Cook has been a strong contributor to the University of Manitoba, both within her home faculty and across the university. Her insight has been widely sought after by governments, boards and agencies, and she has excelled as a leader, an advisor and a collaborator. She brings this stellar record to this new and important role, as well as her deep commitment both to the community and to the University of Manitoba.

Associate Vice-President (Indigenous) – Students, Community and Cultural Integration

  • Biography

    Christine is a proud Red River Métis woman. She grew up in the north end of Winnipeg in a large family. Christine overcame the obstacles of poverty by focusing on education. As a single mother, she finished high school with honours then graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Arts (major in Native Studies and a minor in Chemistry).


    She has worked at the University of Manitoba for 23 years. In her most current role – Associate Vice-President (Indigenous), she is responsible for students, community, and cultural integration. She is actively involved in strategic planning, cultural education, and advocating for the disruption of anti-Indigenous racism.


    Some of that community work has included volunteering with several Boards and committees, including sitting as Chair of the United Way of Winnipeg’s Indigenous Relations Council, member of United Way’s Board of Trustees, Chair of the Circle on Aboriginal People and Philanthropy’s 3rd Annual All My Relations Gathering, and Vice-Chair of Career Trek.

    In 2014, Christine received the Future Leaders of Manitoba Award as well as the Service Award from the University of Manitoba for her outstanding work in the field of Indigenous education and for her commitment to the community.

    In 2015, Christine was one of only nine Manitobans selected to attend the Governor General’s Leadership Conference and spent 16 days travelling across Canada learning about governance, economies, cultures, businesses and other sectors.

    Christine is a traditional woman who attends, participates in, and leads ceremonies. She lives in Winnipeg surrounded by her husband, four children and eight grandchildren.


  • Christine Cyr

Learn more about Christine

She currently co-leads project work in creating a supportive environment for Indigenous students, faculty, staff, and guests including the creation of an anti-Indigenous racism policy, recognizing and compensating the contributions of Indigenous staff and faculty, and the recruitment and retention of Indigenous staff, faculty, and students.

As someone who is dedicated to amplifying and strengthening the Indigenous community at UM, Cyr has developed and led programs like the Post-Secondary Club that advance the recruitment of Indigenous high school students in Manitoba. She also co-created the Indigenous Circle of Empowerment (ICE) leadership program, and established the Métis Working Group and the new position of Métis Inclusion Coordinator.

An accomplished mentor and leader, Cyr received the Future Leaders of Manitoba Award in 2013 and the Service Award from UM in 2014. Her volunteer work has included sitting as Chair of the United Way of Winnipeg’s Indigenous Relations Council, member of United Way’s Board of Trustees, Chair of the Circle on Aboriginal People and Philanthropy’s 3rd Annual All My Relations Gathering, and Vice-Chair of Career Trek.

Christine is active on the Red Road - attending, participating in, and leading ceremonies. She lives in Winnipeg surrounded by her husband, four children and eight grandchildren

Associate Vice-President (Indigenous) - Scholarship, Research & Curriculum

  • Biography

    A sixties scoop survivor, Dr. Miller is Anishinaabe and descends from St. Croix and Leech Lake communities in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Hired as a faculty member in the History Department at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2002, from 2013 she served as the Director of American Indian Studies there. In 2017 she made the move to Winnipeg as the Head of Indigenous Studies and now serves as the Associate Vice President Indigenous – Scholarship, Research, and Curriculum at that institution. Her book Ogimag: Anishinaabeg leadership 1760-1845 was published with the University of Nebraska Press in 2010 and she is one of the editors of the most recent edition of Indigenous Peoples within Canada textbook from Oxford press (2023). Her research is in Anishinaabe leadership in the early 19th century, Anishinaabe women’s history, Treaties and sovereignty, Wisconsin Indian History, and Cultures of the Great Lakes Region. She is particularly interested in 18th and 19th century transborder North American Indigenous histories that center narratives of sovereign Indigenous land use, kinship and diplomacy.

  • Headshot of Cary Miller.


Learn more about Maria

Maria is an Anishinaabe band member of Mishkosiminiziibiing (Big Grassy River) First Nation in Treaty 3, with Métis roots leading seven generations back to the Red River Settlement, and German family. She grew up in Portage la Prairie, graduated high school in Elie and received her B.A. from University of Guelph. For over 25 years, Maria has assisted a variety of organizations, institutions and governments, with a focus on curriculum development, research, strategic planning, and administration in the area of Indigenous communities and people, education, and equity and diversity.

She obtained a Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration and Leadership degree from Royal Roads University in 2022. Maria lives in Winnipeg with her two children and her personal mission is to use the gifts of bringing people, knowledge, and ideas together so that the lives of Indigenous people are positively impacted.

Learn more about Vanessa

Vanessa Lillie is Cree and Métis. Her family is from St. Peter’s/Peguis Reserve along the banks of the Red River. Vanessa has roots in Peguis First Nation, a community in Manitoba’s Interlake. She earned a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Psychology from the University of Manitoba. Her thesis research focused on the effect of socio-cultural factors leading to Indigenous high school graduation.

She has worked at the University of Manitoba as the first Academic Advisor for Indigenous Students in the Faculty of Arts and a Student Advisor in the Indigenous Student Centre overseeing the cultural portfolio.

As an alumnus of the University of Manitoba, Vanessa works to walk in the footsteps of those who came before her seeking possibilities to make our collective space more accessible, inclusive, and healing. Relationships, listening, and learning are integral to Vanessa as she strives to co-create respectful, community-informed restorative practices. Inclusion and integration of Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing widen the path for generations to come reclaiming spaces within all aspects of education.

She is a strong advocate and an active grass-roots community member who balances her time so she can learn from Elders, Traditional Knowledge Keepers and spend time on the land. She is honoured to be a daughter, mother, sister and auntie.

Learn more about Val

Val Parker has worked at UM for more than 25 years in various administrative, service and managerial roles at both the Fort Garry and Bannatyne campuses. Val’s commitment to supporting student engagement comes from her strong belief in the mission of her current office and from working closely with students, staff and faculty in every role she has filled at the University of Manitoba. Outside of the university, Val and her partner Rob have been lifelong Winnipeg Jets fans and can usually be found cheering loudly at Bell MTS Place or any other location the Jets are playing.

Learn more about Karla

Karla grew up in Northern Manitoba and is a member of Sagkeeng First Nation. She has family roots in Wasagamack and Sagkeeng First Nation.

With over 15 years’ experience in professional office executive/administrative assistant positions. Karla takes pride in providing the best service and support, she approaches all aspects of any job with a positive, hardworking mindset, and is passionate about helping find solutions to any challenges. Prior to joining the Office of Vice-President Indigenous, Karla worked at Ongomiizwin, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.

  • Danielle Lang

    Executive Assistant to the Associate Vice-President (Indigenous) - Scholarship, Research & Curriculum


  • Danielle Lang

Learn more about Danielle

Danielle Lang, Executive Assistant to Dr. Cary Miller, Associate Vice-President (Indigenous). Danielle is a White Settler of French European descent who grew up in La Salle, Manitoba but has spent the majority of her adult life in Fort Richmond. She attended the University of Winnipeg and graduated from Herzing Career College with a Medical Secretary/Transcriptionist diploma. She most recently has worked as the executive assistant to the Department Head, Department of Pediatrics, at the Bannatyne Campus. Danielle and her husband Louis have two small dogs (Larry and Bella) and three adult children. In her spare time Danielle has a passion for puzzling, reading, spending time at her cabin where she and Louis enjoy exploring nature and foraging for raspberries, blueberries and mushrooms!

Learn more about Desta

Desta Tataryn is Métis with family ties to Swampy Cree Nation. She grew up in Selkirk, Manitoba and moved to Winnipeg when she began her degree at the University of Winnipeg, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Sociology. Desta has been working at the University of Manitoba for over than five years and is currently the Assistant to Directors for Cultural Integration and for Indigenous Student Recruitment + Community Relations. Prior to this role, she has worked in various UM units, including the Indigenous Student Centre, Inner City Social Work Program, and Community Health Sciences. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with loved ones, camping, and reading, and is currently learning to bead.

Reporting units


Key reports

Contact us

Office of the Vice-President (Indigenous)
Room 202C Administration building
66 Chancellor's Circle
University of Manitoba (Fort Garry campus)
Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2 Canada