Monday, July 20, 2015

Land of Many Waters and Fountains – Part III

Continuing from the last two posts about where the Land of Many Waters was located within the Land of Promise and Mormon’s meaning of the words “many waters,” “rivers,” and “fountains.”
   As we discussed in the last post, the word “fountains,” has a specific meaning. We also mentioned that it is important to keep in mind when reading the scriptural record, not only what is written, but why that specific language is used.
    In the case of the word “fountains,” we should ask ourselves why did Mormon use this descriptive term? It is not a common phrase in connection with natural water locations, though it appears to have been more common in Old Testament times. So why did Mormon include it?
   Of what value would it be for his future reader to know that fountains, or springs, existed in the Land of Many Waters?  And they were the source of the waters in the area? And why might it have been important to him?
In the are of the Land of Many Waters in Ecuador are over 237 individual lakes, ponds, springs, rivers, waterfalls, and other bodies of water 
    The only other connection we have at this time with Mormon’s use of this phrase is that he was hoping to find some advantage over the Lamanites in this land leading up to their final battle. It was, after all, Mormon’s idea to wage this battle at Cumorah. As he put it: “I wrote an epistle unto the king of the Lamanites, and desired of him that he would grant unto us that we might gather together our people unto the land of Cumorah, by a hill which was called Cumorah, and there we could give them battle” (Mormon 6:2). After getting agreement from the Lamanite king, Mormon added, ”And it came to pass that we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents around about the hill Cumorah; and it was in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains; and here we had hope to gain advantage over the Lamanites” (Mormon 6:4).
    What advantage might Mormon have hoped to achieve?
    In this area of Andean South America, where the Land Northward would have been located, north of the Bay of Guayaquil (Mormon’s small or narrow neck of land), and a little south of Quito, is located an area that even on ancient maps of the area is called in ancient Quechua, the “Land of Many Waters.” Here, in what is today labeled the “lagoons of Ozogoche” or the “Ozogoche Lakes,” in the center of the highlands of Ecuador, and important because their waters feed the Pastaza River, which flows into the Amazon River.
In this area of Ecuador are 45 individual springs that feed the lakes, lagoons, ponds and rivers 
    Here in the central Andes is the province of Chimborazo where extraordinary wildlife, floriculture, archaeological and cultural landscapes are found, with more than 327 lagoons, lakes and ponds, among which are some “forty-five natural water springs that are in the Sangay National Park,  (where is also found the newly discovered Pyramid of Punay) which offer tranquility and peace in this remote culture of the unique grasslands in the Andean highlands.” 
    This wet and cold region, covering an area 2000 square miles, is considered a “mysterious and isolated place,” in an area of Wetlands—a high, treeless plateau called a paramo. These natural fountains, or springs as they are known today, are the sources of more than sixty lakes, lagoons, rivers, and waters scattered across the region, nestled at 12,000 feet in Ozogoche among volcanoes and differing elevations of the Andean peaks that even today isolates Ecuador’s remote and vast natural beauty. Within this land of many waters is found countless valleys, lagoons, small waterfalls, rivers, and dense vegetation, and numerous springs that feed the various water ways from underground aquifers.
Migrating Plover birds “commit suicide” in the “many waters” lakes of central Ecuador each year 
    The lakes and lagoons of Ozogoche are one of Ecuadors most enigmatic and sacred sites which are infamous for being an “Elephant Cementary” for birds. Beginning at the end of August and for all of September thousands of migrating Plover birds leave their breeding habitat in the arctic islands and coastal areas of Alaska and Canada to make the great journey south to Argentina and Chile. When they reach the Ozogoche Lakes thousands of these Plover birds seemingly “commit suicide” by diving into the icy waters in a mysterious and sacred tribute to the indigenous Quichua people of the region.
    For unexplained reasons to-date, thousands of these migratory birds gather over Verdecocha Lake, making terrible noises and paying tribute to death as observers watch these "Cuvivíes” (a name the locals give the birds because of the sound they make), fall into the water in a form of mass suicide.
    Recent research that has been done by the Biology Department at the Universidad Católica de Quito determined that the migratory birds belong to the Bartramia Longicauda family or upland sandpiper in the English language. This phenomenon has been named ‘The Tribute’ by the local indigenous populations, but so far no one seems to know why the birds “swoop down into the water” where they die upon impact, though some suggestions have been postulated.
    According to one scientific theory trying to put sense to this mysterious natural phenomenon is that the birds that “commit suicide” by diving into the lake are older and weaker and are tired from their migratory journey, falling to their death into the lake after a change of air pressure above it—the icy water evidently instantly kills them. Whatever the reason, this has been going on for more than a thousand years and could even date back to the time of the Nephites, and for a very long time the locals have been gathering each year at the lakes to collect the birds, which are meaty enough to eat, in a type of festival (Fiesta de Culturas Vivia). In a speculative thought, perhaps a part of the advantage had to do with the feeding of his half a million troops and families from the availability of these diving birds. Certainly, over time, this place has become known as a place of death.
    The history of “the many waters” of the Ozogoche Lakes and the surrounding region is the history of the Quichua people. These indigenous natives call the Andean highlands home and have done so for thousands of years. Although the Quichua were one of the first groups to be conquered by the Inca Empire, their population did not decline until the drastic fall that was catalyzed by the Spanish colonization of Ecuador. Some Quichua escaped from central Ecuador and migrated south down the Andes mountain range, leading to the population of places like the Ozogoche Lakes. These indigenous cultures still play a huge role in the region today.
    This region, one of the very few places in the world where so many separate, yet connected bodies of water like lakes, lagoons, ponds, waterfalls, rivers, and most importantly, so many feeder springs give rise to an area called “the Land of Many Waters,” can be found. Not far from this region is another, similar area of 230 more lakes called El Cajas, and several others in the central highlands of Ecuador fit into the picture that Mormon appropriately called ‘the Land of Many Waters’ and of it said, “and it was in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains; and here we had hope to gain advantage over the Lamanites” (Mormon 6:4).
    What advantage he might have felt he could obtain, he does not mention; however, in seeing this land one can only wonder at its unusually topography of numerous hills and valleys, water ways, falls, and other features that a commanding general might think he could use to his advantage in deploying his troops.
The land in this region is filled with variances in levels, growth, and numerous places to form up troops to battle. If you are going to face overwhelming odds in a hand-to-hand type battle, this land would have provided an ideal setting such as narrow approaches, traps, ambush, including trees for protection from arrows, etc.

1 comment:

  1. Del,

    You've suggested that Cerro Imbabura is the Hill Cumorah, and you've suggested an area in this post that qualifies as the land of many waters. The issue I see is that Cerro Imbabura is nowhere near this land of many waters. They are very far apart. Would really like to see your notes/sources on the Quechua place that is called "Land of Many Waters."