Friday, October 12, 2018

Who Were the Andean Quechua?

When the Nephites arrived in the Land of Promise around 587 BC, there were no other people present according to Lehi’s promise from the Lord (2 Nephi 1:5-8), which he clearly states to his children and descendants just prior to his death, not long after arriving in the land the Lord promised him. Shortly thereafter, the Mulekites would have landed north along the coast where Mosiah found them about 400 years later in the area called Zarahemla (Omni 1:16).
    Today, it is arguable among LDS historians and scholars whether or not the Jaredites, who had landed in the far north, an area called the Land Northward, about 2100 BC, were still in the Land Northward when Lehi landed in the Land Southward, but based on the events of their demise and the following encounter of the Jaredite Coriantumr with the people of Zarahemla (Omni 1:20-22), not long after the latter arrived, seems unlikely their civilization overlapped that of the Nephites. Certainly the two knew nothing of each other, and there was never any contact between them according to the accurate records the Nephites kept as far as we have been informed.
Left: The Hebrew Land of Promise today; Right: The Lehi Land of Promise today

To make sure we understand the layout of the Land of Promise and the region in which it was located, we need to remember that the Hebrews’ Promised Land was a small region along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, today called the Levant, surrounded on three sides by a much larger land mass, that of the Middle East. In that same sense, today, the promised land Lehi was given by the Lord is a region along the eastern shore of the Pacific Ocean surrounded on three sides by a much larger land mass, the rest of South America, though when Lehi landed, that area encompassing the Land Southward, where he landed, and the Land Northward, where the Jaredites landed and lived out their entire 1500-year civilization, was an island as Jacob said (2 Nephi 10:20).
    It became a solid land, connected to the rest of South America, at the time of the crucifixion when the entire face of the land was changed (3 Nephi 8:12). At that time, the Andes rose to their present height, “which was great” (Helaman 14:23), bringing upward what is now the huge Amazon Basin, and much of the central lands of South America.
    As is well known, in 385 AD, the Lamanites succeeded in their 1000-year quest to annihilate the Nephites, and by 421, at the end of the Nephite record, these Lamanite victors were in the midst of a 36-year civil war among themselves and “no one knoweth the end of the war” (Mormon 8:4; Moroni 1:1-3). How long this bloody war lasted is unknown to us today, nor is the result of it and its effect on the Lamanite populace. It might be assumed that the result was the breaking up of the Lamanites into tribal groups, as happened among the Nephites (3 Nephi 7:2) just before the appearance of Christ in the Land of Promise (3 Nephi 9:15). In fact, in North America, and also in Central and South America, where the Lamanites were scattered by the time of the arrival of the Spanish and other European nations, the indigenous natives, or Indians as they were called by the newcomers, were broken up in individual tribal groups, though in Central and South America, three formidable and dominant groups had earlier consolidated much of their lands into powerful states: The Aztec, the Maya and the Inca.
Left: Tribes in North America; Right: Tribes in South America—hundreds of different tribes are located today in North, Central and South America
Irrespective of the several tribal groups, or “cultures” as the anthropologists call them today, most of the people in western South America at the time of the Spanish arrival, were a tightly-knit civilization of Quechua-speaking people. Today, anthropologists and archaeologists separate these so-called “pre-Inca” people into numerous cultures and time periods, though that is strictly based on their interpretation of ceramic styles and variances in the types of artifacts found—not in actual knowledge.
    Currently there are approximately 2.5 million Quechua people in South American, who are the largest of any indigenous peoples in the Americas today. The Aymara and Quechua languages (which have many spoken dialects) are collectively the most widely spoken of all indigenous languages in South America. The Quechua are also the only people to have migrated both north and south along the ridges and valleys of the Andes mountains and east into the rainforest of the Amazon Basin. This early divergence in their migration paths has created distinct mountain- and jungle-identity and cultures of the Quechua people, who were among the earliest peoples to be conquered by the Inca empire in the mid-15th century.
    Ironically, the Inca empire itself consisted mainly of people who spoke the same Quechua language! Though the Quechua were a large portion of the people in western South America at the time of the Spanish colonization, their population level fell drastically after 1532, as a result of the capture of the Inca Emperor, Atahuallpa, by Francisco Pizarro, and the resultant deaths from war and European diseases the indigenous peoples were unable to survive.
Pizzaro’s arrival in South America and capture of the Inca Atahuallpa

It should also be understood that there is a distinct difference between the Quechua people of today and those who speak the Quechua language. While there are 2.5 million of the former in South America today, there are around 10 million of the latter. This is because there were many languages adopted over the previous 1000 years that today are extinct languages, and those peoples who once spoke them now speak Quechuan. Even the Quechuan people of antiquity are difficult to discern today, since during the 500 years since the Spanish colonization, there exists a mixtures in Quechua culture and even language dialects.
   It is also understood by linguists that prior to the Spanish arrival, the Quechua people, or indigenous people of South America, were pre-literate. That is, they had no written languages, though some had developed an interesting way of recording events by tying knots in cords—what the later Inca called quipus and used exclusively to communicate certain types of information.
    In addition, inter-marriage with the Spanish was practiced from the early days, creating "Mestizos" who were, and are, virtually counted as a separate ethnic group! One has to venture into remote communities today to find majority "pure-blood" Quechua. While Roman Catholicism is today widespread following the efforts of early missionaries, Jesuits and padres, pagan and Animist tradition happily co-exists alongside it. Day-long, multi-day festivals, parades, and activities often mix and even combine Christian and Pagan undertakings, though outlying communities still remain true to the Quechua history during weekly marketplace gatherings or celebrations, with the unchanged old ways still surviving.
    Over the last couple of centuries, many Quechua migrated east to the Amazon Basin, partly to escape the invasion of Europeans and their insistence on changing their Old Ways, and partly for the different landscape, climate, indigenous plants and animals their culture developed separately in the past, and where rivers, not roads, are the primary means of transport, and where Spanish is spoken much less than in the mountains.
While many of the rainforest Quechua communities, where there are few schools, and little tendency toward change, and who have their primary contact with the outside world the battery-powered radio, life is slowly changing. Volleyball and soccer are the sports of choice, and even Western style clothing has all but replaced traditional dress. Yet, despite all the changes brought about, even reluctantly, villages still have a traditional shaman trained in ancient rainforest Quechua practices of magic and healing.
    In addition, the preparation of tea is still done with ayahuasca ("vine of the spirit") plant, a hallucinogen that is used by many rainforest peoples for ritual clairvoyance, healing and spirit worship. Still, change is inevitable and while the uneducated resist it and lack an understanding of its effects, change is seen everywhere in the mountains and the Amazonian lowlands.
    So who were the Quechua, and who are they today? It seems most likely that the Quechua are today’s remnants of the Lamanites who survived that ancient civil war following their annihilation of the Nephite nation. As the Lord foretold through Nephi, who “saw the people of the seed of my brethren that they had overcome my seed; and they went forth in multitudes upon the face of the land. And I saw them gathered together in multitudes; and I saw wars and rumors of wars among them; and in wars and rumors of wars I saw many generations pass away…And t I beheld, after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations” (1 Nephi 12:20-21, 23).
    The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “One of the most important points in the faith of the Church of the Latter-day Saints, through the fullness of the everlasting Gospel, is the gathering of Israel (of whom the Lamanites constitute a part).” (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2:357). And in a proclamation of the Twelve Apostles of the restored Church in 1845, we are told—speaking of the Lamanites of North and South America—“They will also come to the knowledge of their forefathers, and of the fulness of the gospel; and they will embrace it and become a righteous branch of the house of Israel.” (Proclamation of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, New York, “Prophet” Office, Apr. 6, 1845, p3). Spencer W. Kimball added of the Lamanites, “We must look forward to the day…when they shall have economic security, culture, refinement, and education; when they shall be operating farms and businesses and industries and shall be occupied in the professions and in teaching” (Conference Reports, Oct. 3 1947, p. 22).
    We are seeing this tremendous gathering, taking place throughout the Americas, especially in Latin America, where the Lamanites are being gathered in, and becoming a righting branch of the house of Israel.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks again, you hit the ball out of the park again especially reminding us of the proclamation!