Warren Cariou was born in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan into a family of Métis and European heritage. Though he has lived away from Meadow Lake for many years, his art and academic work maintains a focus on the cultural and environmental questions that have preoccupied the people of his homeland. His books, films, photography and scholarly research explore themes of community, environment, orality and belonging in the Canadian west, with particular focus on the relationships between Indigenous stories and the land.
Cariou’s books The Exalted Company of Roadside Martyrs and Lake of the Prairies: A Story of Belonging have won and been nominated for numerous awards, including the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Nonfiction and the Drainie-Taylor Prize for biography. He has also co-directed and co-produced two films about Aboriginal people in western Canada’s oil sands region: Overburden and Land of Oil and Water. His films have screened at many national and international film festivals including Hot Docs, ImagineNative, and the San Francisco American Indian Film Festival. In 2014 he began a photographic practice called Petrography, in which he creates images using bitumen gathered from the Athabasca tar sands region near his home town.
Warren has also edited or co-edited several books, including the anthologies of Indigenous literature W’daub Awae: Speaking True and Manitowapow: Aboriginal Stories from the Land of Water. He is the General Editor of the First Voices, First Texts series of critical editions at the University of Manitoba Press, which brings lost or neglected works of Indigenous literature back into circulation. He was a long-time Fiction editor of Prairie Fire magazine, and he recently co-edited with Katherena Vermette a special joint issue of Prairie Fire and CV2 magazines, entitled ndncountry.
In his academic research, Cariou has published many articles on Canadian Indigenous literature, Métis culture and Indigenous storytelling traditions, and he is continuing work on Indigenous oral performance through his association with the Canadian Consortium on Performance and Politics in the Americas. He is a member of the Six Seasons of the Asiniskow Ithiniwuk collaborative storytelling and writing project, involving Rocky Cree Communities in Manitoba. He is also a researcher with the Wa Ni Ska Tan Hydro Alliance, an interdisciplinary research team studying the effects of hydroelectric development on Indigenous communities. He has also written several articles on the cultural politics of petroleum development in Indigenous communities, and he is conducting ongoing work on the politics and philosophy of energy in Indigenous cultures.
Warren Cariou directs the Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture at the University of Manitoba, where he also teaches in the Department of English, Theatre, Film and Media. He lives in Winnipeg with his wife, the poet and professor Alison Calder.