Date Created: 07/28/2018
Last Updated: 07/31/2018

In loving memory of Mary Butler
8/18/1943 - 7/25/2018

Location: Counselor, New Mexico

Visits: 8,467

This memorial was created in honor of Mary Sala Butler of Counselor, New Mexico. Mary was born on August 18, 1943 in Counselor and passed on July 25, 2018. Mary was loved by many and will be dearly missed by all friends and family.


The Life of Mary Sala Butler

Mary Sala Butler was born August 18, 1943 in Counselor, New Mexico, she was the daughter of the late Mariano Ortero and Jesse Sala

Mary was the middle child of Jesse Sala. Mary's older sister, Nellie Sala preceded her in death. Her younger brother, Peter Sala is surviving.

[The following is adapted from the October 1964 issue of the Forgotten Navajo newsletter--thanks to Martha Cook, longtime friend of the family]
Mary lived with her grandfather and spent much of her time herding sheep. Although her grandfather was uneducated, he was wise in many ways. "I want you to be a good girl." he told her many times. Her grandpa emphatically reiterated, "I do not want you to go to the government school [here near the reservation) where the girls come home feeling so smart and bold. I want you to stay here with me and learn to be a good Navajo woman."

One day a missionary came to visit her old grandfather. The missionary made friends with the old man and asked him to allow Mary, her little granddaughter, to attend the Brethren Navajo Mission Boarding School.

At the school, Mary not only learned her lessons well, but she also made her commitment to follow Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. Early in life she showed a quiet determination to live for Christ and in time Mary decided to be baptized. Reverend Evan Adams, a non-Navajo was the superintendent of the Mission, he baptized Mary.

Upon graduating from eighth grade, Mary's family expected her to return to her hogan home and help the family. After all, very few Navajo people ever graduate from eighth grade. Her education felt complete, especially for a Navajo girl.

But Mary's quiet determination emerged. She had a real thirst for knowledge. So she enrolled in the InterMountain Indian School in Brigham City, UT. Many Navajo students rode buses from Arizona and New Mexico to attend school at Intermountain where they learned English and a Trade. Intermountain was a career center set up by the US Government to educate Navajo youth.

Now confronted with a sudden barrage of luxuries, pleasures, and temptations from the outside world, Mary became confused and troubled. To meet her need, the Lord sent a non-Navajo friend, the Reverend James Cook, who taught evangelical Bible classes near the school at their house in Brigham City, UT.

Mary was strengthened in her faith. She took courage and stood firm. Bravely she battled the doubtful pastimes which surrounded her and Mary became an assistant to the busy Bible teacher. James Cook was grateful for her help.

Although things away from home seemed to settle down, a great challenge awaited Mary back at home. She would face a critical crossroads in her life.

The summer of her sophomore year at Intermountain School in Brigham City, Utah, Mary went home for a visit. To her dismay, she found that her family had arranged a marriage for her. Arranged marriages was a Navajo tradition where young Navajo girls were obligated to fulfill.

After much prayer and soul searching, Mary took her stand. She would not marry the young Navajo man. First, he was not a follower of Christ. Second, she hardly knew him. Third, she intended to go back to school.

Yet the obligation to fulfill the arranged marriage was overwhelming. She appealed to her maternal uncle to intervene. By God's grace, her uncle intervened and the marriage was called off.

Mary returned to school relieved but sad. Mr. James cook noticed her loneliness. After some thought, Mr Cook introduced Mary to another of his bible study assistants, Tully Butler. Tully was a Christ follower and was growing in the Lord.

Courtship was virtually unknown in Navajo society. Marriages were arranged by family.

But Tully took an unprecedented amount of courage to ask Mary for the first date. As recalled by Mr Cook, after they attended church together and went out to dinner, Tully's face was a wreath of smiles. "Mr Cook," he exclaimed, "I think she likes me!"

In early summer of 1964, Mary returned to the Brethren Navajo Mission as the first Navajo summer missionary. She announced her plans to be married at the mission in August.

Mary worked diligently, interpreting and visiting her people to share the Gospel of Christ. Meantime, wedding plans were quickly being arranged.

Then on August 1, 1964, Mary walked down the aisle of the little Navajo chapel in the old Mission building. Her uncle, Lee Trujillo, a Navajo pastor escorted her down the aisle. Mary wore a borrowed wedding dress. Reverend Scott Franklin, an ordained Navajo minister, performed the ceremony in the Navajo language explaining how Christ was the center of their relationship and not the Navajo way.

About two hundred guests listened intently to the testimony of Mary and Tully. As recounted by Mission staff, refreshments included Navajo stew, frybread, wedding cake, and punch. An atmosphere of great joy and solemn reflection prevailed, for this wedding ceremony was the first Christian wedding of two Navajo young people in the entire area.

[More to come]

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