Ronald Senungetuk was born in Wales, Alaska, where he grew up with traditional Inupiaq values. At age fifteen, he was sent to Mt. Edgcumbe High School in Sitka. He went on to earn AAS and BFA degrees from the School for American Craftsmen in Rochester, New York, and as a Fulbright scholar earned a Diploma from Statens Handverks and Kunstindustri Skole in Oslo Norway. In 1961 he joined the Department of Art at UAF where he founded and directed the Native Arts Center.
Senungetuk began his career in art and teaching based on Western art concepts. His interest in abstract and applied art and design led to an in-depth study and interpretation of Old Bering Sea art and to making new works fitting a contemporary world. He began combining the two influences by creating colored wood panels showing native hunting, fishing and other subsistence activities in addition to his non-representational objects in wood and silver.