Michael Kabotie was born on September 3, 1942 on the Hopi Indian Reservation in northeastern Arizona. He grew up in the village of Shungopavi and attended school on the reservation until the Hopi high school was closed. He graduated from Haskell Indian School in Lawrence, Kansas in 1961. While in his junior year there he was invited to spend the summer at the Southwest Indian Art Project at the Universigty of Arizona. Participants included Fritz Scholder, Helen Hardin, Charles Loloma and Joe Hererra (who became a life long friend and his primary artist mentor).

Both Michael and his father, Fred Kabotie, have been innovators in the Native American Fine Arts Movement, creating paintings that reflect traditional Hopi life in contemporary media. Fred Kabotie was one of the Hopi artists responsible for developing the trademark overlay methods used today by many Hopi silver and goldsmiths. He is also the painter of the Watchtower murals in the Grand Canyon.