Judith Ann Putnam Hartley was born in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Her parents were Steve and Thelma Davids Putnam. She has five sisters and one brother: Ramona Harder, Betty Schiel, Pauline Mc Carten, Beverly White, Marie Demjen, and Joe Putnam. She had 2 half-sisters, Beryl and Virgie who are now deceased.
She grew up on the reservation and went to Bowler grade and high schools. What she liked about growing up on the Rez was the natural beauty that was all around —the woods and the river were where she spent most of her time playing with all the other kids. In the evening, she would play "Kick the Can" or "Annie, Annie Over" until it was too late and her parents would make her and Joe come inside, clean up and get to bed. During berry season-blackberry and raspberry, the family would go picking berries in the woods. In the wintertime she would ice skate on the frozen river back behind Raasch’s.
Judith said families did things together; the church mission was a big part of their lives. They used to look forward to picking out clothes from the mission boxes that were sent to the church. Her parents had a big garden and they had to work in it pulling weeds and picking vegetables. The adults of the community had to work very hard but the kids were mostly oblivious to that fact. She says she had a great childhood on the Rez!
Going to school off the reservation in Bowler was an introduction to the real world. During her 12 years of school there she encountered wonderful people and good role models; she also experienced racial prejudice. For starters, the Rez bus picked up one white family who happened to live just off the reservation. There was friction because they didn’t like riding on the Rez bus. Judith remembers being at sleepovers in grade school when she would be told to sleep on the floor at a white person’s house because she was Indian. All the other kids would be allowed to sleep in the bed; however, some of them would sleep on the floor anyway. That did not happen everywhere-just some people were like that.
Judith remembers there was subtle discrimination as well. For example, in school, if an Indian won a contest or honor of some sort it was not always noted. She remembers winning 1st place in the 100-yard dash at a contest at the Shawano County Fairgrounds and she wasn’t even told or given the blue ribbon until weeks later when the teacher just handed it to her. She said she should have known she was first but the concept of competing was so foreign to the non-competitive Native culture she had always experienced on the Rez that when her teacher told her to run, she ran. She didn’t realize she was trying to beat other people. Judith is thankful to her wonderful parents, Steve and Thelma Putnam, for their wise and sensible counsel. They told all of their kids that prejudice results from ignorance and there will always be ignorant people. They encouraged them to just live their lives and not wait until the world was perfect and, also, not make the same mistake of being prejudiced towards others. The negative people Judith encountered were less in number than the good so she can still honestly say that she had a lot of fun at Bowler Grade and High School and learned a lot there, too.
Judith was co-salutatorian in high school and after graduation she went to Oshkosh to college and graduated with a liberal arts degree in Zoology. She worked as a research biologist for six years in Milwaukee. She earned an MBA from Anderson University in Indiana.
She is married to Ralph, "Butch", Hartley and they are celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary this year. They moved to Indiana about 25 years ago where Judith stayed home for several years raising their children. During that time, she worked part-time as a computer programmer. Once the kids were older, she went to work at Roche Diagnostics. Judith worked for them from home for ten years and now works on their campus in Indianapolis doing technical support. Judith and Butch have two grown daughters-Kelly Anne who graduated from Indiana University Law School in May 2004 and Bonney who graduated cum laude from Hanover College last May also. Bonney is currently attending graduate school in Cape Town, South Africa, working toward a graduate degree in International Studies. They have no grandchildren.
Judith feels that she and her siblings have been blessed to have had two strong parents. They raised a family during the Depression. They worked so hard just to get through a day and they endured all the trials that come with raising a large family. They were tremendous role models and the way they lived their lives-full of faith, integrity and vision-left a priceless legacy for all of their children.
Two incidents in her childhood always stand out. One was when she was quite young-maybe four or five years old. Judith’s Aunt Berga and Uncle Jimmy came to visit. They lived in Kansas so it was a big deal cleaning the house and getting everything just so for their visit. Her Uncle Jimmy gave her mother a book called "A Treasury of the Familiar" and in it were famous stories, poems, quotes, and speeches. He then proceeded to open the book and read the poem, "The Cremation of Sam McGee" aloud to the family. He was an outstanding reader and Judith thinks he was an English professor but she’s not sure about that. She said he used a lot of vocal variety and voice inflection, pregnant pauses, and the like. "It really was quite a performance. I was dazzled," Said Judith. She says the poem came to life and she forgot she was sitting barefoot on the floor at home on the Rez in the middle of summer and, instead, was transported to Alaska. That experience made her to want to go to school because she wanted to read like that!
Another incident Judith remembers was a trip that her older sister, Betty June, her husband Doug, and family took one summer when she and Joe were about 11 and 12 years old. Betty and Doug had a brand-new red station wagon and they took their own kids plus their mother, dad, Joe and Judith along. She and Joe had never really been on a vacation before. They drove to New York state, up through Canada, saw Niagara Falls, stayed in a multi-story hotel in Detroit, went on a ferry boat out to Mackinac Island and crossed the bridge that connects upper and lower Michigan. Maybe it sounds ordinary now, but it was a BIG DEAL! Judith says it was all wonderfully exciting and a real adventure and she will never forget it. Again, she was made aware of how big the world is that we live in. She thinks she took for granted what her older sister had really sacrificed to include them. It must have been costly and stressful. Now, looking back, she realizes what a kind, generous thing Betty June did.
Judith’s most outstanding travel memory is when she backpacked in Europe by herself for one week and with her family for two more weeks. She sings in the church choir and at Christmas in the company holiday choir. Over the years she has tutored children in reading and math. Judith believes that a lot of kids don’t have a solid family life and it’s so important to help them get a good start with their basic skills otherwise they go through life thinking they are dumb and they are not; they just need a little help and encouragement.
She loves to read and always have one or two books that she is currently reading. She has two books by Shirley Dunn about Mohican history. She said they helped her understand the early history of our tribe. She also likes to give speeches and has given speeches about Mohicans and other Native issues. She feels it is a way to educate people in the larger culture for whom Indians are just stereotypes, not real people.
Her advice to young people is to appreciate the gift of life that has been given to you by your Creator. Strive to develop your faith because from that will come good manners, good lifestyle habits, and a good work ethic. Work hard at whatever your task in life may be. Your life will influence others for good or ill so make sure it is for good. Always be proud of your Native heritage-look back and learn about our history— but look forward, too. We are all part of something larger than today.