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 people and non-Native people.
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.