Manfred Susunkewa was born in 1940 at Second Mesa on the Hopi Reservation in northeastern Arizona. He lived there until age 16, when he was sent to Stewart Indian School in Nevada. He attended the boarding school for two years, after which he worked for a while as a carpenter in California. Susunkewa (pronounced soo-soon-kee-wah) studied at Haskell in Kansas from 1959-1961, going on to attend the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe.
Along with Fritz Scholder, he attended the University of Arizona on a Rockefeller Scholarship. When his scholarship monies ran out, he decided to pursue his katsina doll carving full time. Susunkewa was at the forefront of the movement to return to the old-style representation of katsinas, using only vegetal and hand-ground mineral pigments.
Designated an "Arizona Living Treasure", he has been featured in Native Peoples magazine. Manfred Susunkewa regularly exhibits and wins awards at the Indian Markets at Santa Fe, the Heard Museum and Pueblo Grande. His work is in the permanent collection of the Heard Museum, the Museum of Northern Arizona, the Arizona State Museum, the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology and others.