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Cariou received a B.A. (Hons) from the University of Saskatchewan and an MA and PhD from the University of Toronto (1998). In 1999 he published a book of short stories, The Exalted Company of Roadside Martyrs, with Coteau Books. This was followed up in 2002 with his memoir Lake of the Prairies, which gained him a wider audience. It won the 2002 Drainie-Taylor Prize for Biography and was shortlisted for the 2004 Charles Taylor Prize. In 2005 Cariou served on the jury for the prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Cariou was one of three featured authors in Coming Attractions '95, and has had short stories appear in Stag Line: Stories by Men and Due West, both published by Coteau Books. As well, his fiction was awarded a CBC Literary Competition Prize in 1991.
He grew up on a farm near Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, a place he describes beautifully in Lake of the Prairies. He has worked as a construction labourer, a technical writer and a political advisor. He holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Toronto and now teaches Aboriginal Literature at the University of Manitoba. He is currently working on a novel entitled Exhaust. Cariou is married to the poet and literature professor Alison Calder.
- 2002 Drainie-Taylor Prize for Biography
- 2005 Greifswald Canadian Studies Fellow in Residence, University of Greifswald, Germany
- with W'Daub Awae, Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Daniel Heath Justice, Lesley Belleau: Speaking True: A Kegedonce Press Anthology. Kegedonce, 2006 ISBN 0978499859
- "Faculty of Arts - English, Film and Theatre - Faculty Details: Warren Cariou". University of Manitoba -. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
- "2004 Finalists". The Charles Taylor Prize for Literary non-fiction. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
- "Authors Barfoot, Bergen on Giller short list". CTV.com. September 28, 2005. Retrieved 29 May 2011.