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Abstract

Both students and teachers consider textbooks reference sources. This accepted authority helps textbooks to persuasively establish particular myths surrounding the events discussed. This paper examines the way that Pilgrim portrayals in two popular elementary United States history textbooks construct a national myth that America is founded on ideals of tolerance, multiculturalism, and freedom. Three elements of the Pilgrims’ story, the First Thanksgiving, Pilgrim-Native American relations, and the Pilgrims’ American ideals, represent Pilgrims as hard-working people who came to America to find religious freedom and found a society based on democratic ideals. Such accounts suggest that Pilgrims lived harmoniously with Native Americans, celebrating the First Thanksgiving with them. While this portrayal of Pilgrims appeals to America’s Western European heritage, it disregards the violence, cultural hierarchy, and oppression more characteristic of such settler-native exchanges.

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